The Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government have started taking the dip in their credibility, and the virtually across-the-board negative media coverage, seriously only over the last month. On June 5, when Congress office-bearers met here under party president Sonia Gandhi’s leadership, hours after the police action on the Ramlila Grounds here, a key issue raised, informed sources told The Hindu, was on “the need to take on the Opposition aggressively at party briefings.”
On May 10, the government set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to tackle the media in the aftermath of a series of financial scandals. But while it had filled a gap, the party sources said, it was felt it was not adequately countering the Opposition onslaught or the media’s unrelenting criticism of the party and government. The party also needed to fight back: that was the consensus.
And so since June 5, it has been a brand new belligerent Congress at work. On June 6 and 10, its media chairperson Janardan Dwivedi addressed the press himself: and there was no mistaking the message he sent out against Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare and the saffron family. On June 8, party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan came out, with all guns blazing at the RSS and the BJP, echoing Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s GoM briefing, but far more sharply.
And, on Tuesday, the Congress took the BJP-led Uttarkhand government to task for the death of 34-year-old ascetic, Swami Nigamanand, who had been on a four-month-long fast to draw attention to a polluted Ganga and illegal mining in the area. In the morning, party general secretary Digvijay Singh said the BJP had ignored Swami Nigamanand, focussing its attention instead on the “high-flying Swami Ramdev who is on a money-making spree, raising issues which he does not understand, raising issues which he does not comprehend.”
In the evening, Mr. Dwivedi said that while a “real satyagrahi” like Swami Nigamanand, who had taken up causes that should have been dear to the BJP and the RSS — the Ganga’s health — was ignored by the saffron family, it lavished its attention on another “political” Swami.
For the media, used to mildness — and often, ambivalence — from the Congress’ media cell, all this has come as a surprise. Not just that, it is now not just the Congress’ most vocal general secretary, Digvijay Singh, taking on the Opposition publicly, even the mild mannered B.K. Hariprasad (another general secretary) has been speaking out publicly against the RSS parivar. This is a war — and the party has closed ranks.
The GoM had been intended as a “structured mechanism to disseminate information to relay the government’s position on emerging issues, especially those with political ramifications.” It was also expected to “keep in close touch with the Congress to ensure coordination between party and government briefings.”
The party, the sources said, felt that the Congress’ battle against its political opponents needed to be given an edge and that could come only from its ranks, not from the government, which clearly cannot display the belligerence the former can. Hindu