Is the Congress moving to the right?

 
Congress rally The rally was called to shore up support for economic reforms

Is India's Congress party moving to the right after being avowedly centre-left for most of its chequered life?

Over the weekend, the Grand Old Party staged a massive rally in Delhi to shore up support and defend its controversial recent economic reforms, including the decision to open the retail sector to global supermarket chains.

The ringing endorsement came from the troika of PM Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi and party leader and heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi. Mr Singh said those opposing moves to open the retail sector to foreign firms were "misleading the people".

It's a marked departure for a party which has been sheepish about its commitment to economic reforms.

In its halcyon days, when the Congress dominated the political landscape, Indira Gandhi nationalised private banks, insurance, coal mines and the oil industry, restricted investments by large companies, tightened controls on imports and exports and regulated foreign investment. Garibi hatao (Banish poverty) was her favourite slogan. But joblessness grew, growth crawled and the poor got poorer. In recent years, the National Advisory Council, a left-leaning think-tank led by her daughter-in-law and party chief Sonia Gandhi has pushed the government for more welfare and distributive measures.

Many argue that the Congress has never really shed its inhibitions about embracing reforms. Pushed to the wall by a deteriorating economy and a balance of payments crisis, it unleashed economic reforms in the early 1990s under the stewardship of the late prime minister Narasimha Rao and then finance minister Manmohan Singh. More recently, battling allegations of corruption and inaction and battered by an unforgiving media, the government pushed through a slew of reforms, including allowing foreign supermarkets into India.

So does Sunday's rally mark the coming out of the closet for the party?

It's early days yet, but many believe it is a signal by the party which is prepared to back reforms and take on critics at home and abroad who have accused the government of dithering. It's another matter, says political scientist Zoya Hasan, writer of a definitive book on the Congress, whether this will bring any political dividends. "Holding a mass rally in favour of foreign direct investment did not look like a good idea. The issue has very little resonance with most people," she says.

Many of the stellar achievements of the two-term Congress government - the landmark right-to-information law, the jobs guarantee scheme, the right-to-education law - happened during its first term, when the Communist parties were its main allies and the Sonia Gandhi-led NAC was at its proactive best. (The Communists later withdrew support for the government over the civilian nuclear deal with the US.) Analysts like Dr Hasan believe that the absence of the Communists and a weaker NAC has led to the government taking a "right turn" in its second term.

What is clear is that the Congress has gone from the defensive to the offensive and hopes to regain the momentum in the run-up to general elections in 2014. But it is too early to say whether it has changed colours.

 
Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    No more than Liberals (Canadian party) did post-1993!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    Cong arranged Trunk loads of Cash to Vote in the U.S Nuclear Deal.
    http://www.thehindu.com/news/the-india-cables/article1544916.ece

    Now staging paid rallies for Supermarkets.

    Sonia must become the PM and take Responsibility for the deep corruption rather than behave like a Queen with Remote Control and a Halo of Silence.If she wants the trappings of Power she MUST take Responsibility

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    The news headlines of the past year tell us excessive public spending cannot be sustained any longer. No foreign govts or institutions are now available to fund any country/its projects/ its public expenditures. Needed money has to be attracted. Greece Spain UK USA, all have recognized that moneys for social programs/projects has dried up or is drying up fast. I am glad Congress has recognised.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    16.Sukhvinder-Punjabi
    congress's hand r still wet with the blood of thousands of sikhs

    What about the blood of tens of thousands of Hindus on the Sikhs hands?
    Or do they not count?

    Have you tried reclaiming the Sikh territories from India's neighbouring country yet? Or are the Sikhs courageous only when faced with unarmed Hindu baniyas and not in front of armed Pathans?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    Congress is a family farm, its main aim like any other political party remaining in povver is the goal. But in case of conflict the family interest takes precedence.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    Right or Left is not the question which shud be asked from Congress because congress's hand r still wet with the blood of thousands of sikhs,The fact is that India is in the tight grip of so called upper class Hindu Baniyas who control each n everything they just want More n More they occupy many territories which does not belong to them they robe resources n rights of minorities in the nameof fed

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    Good joke. Thanks for making me laugh.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    Liberal approach to let in foreign direct investment does not mean free for all policy. For optimum results interaction in international markets-financial and goods markets has to be quite nuanced. The opposition by BJP to reforms cannot be cosidered its move to the left.--far from it. Its response is rather quite difficult to understand.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    Is Congress moving at all?
    With no secular alternatives’ Hindutva forces have gained ground. Rising unemployment in the face of non-working ‘neo-liberal’ policies have further helped such organisations in their recruitment.
    S. India becoming the new laboratories of right-wing Hindutva politics.
    Dangerous times in India...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    Congress party's present stance to-wards reforms is a pragmative and needed adjustment in its policy to meet challenges in a world economy shedding restrictions on trade and investment by the day. Look at its neighbour, China to get a better understanding of this development. Days of rigid ideological approach to economic policy are over in almost every country. India cannot be an exception.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    2.chiptheduck
    Quick.

    Send them some aid!

    The British Government has decided to cut the aid too India from £650m to £325m per year.

    Can we have compensation for the millions of Indians killed and also for 190 years of loot of India, please? We could start with most of the crown jewels and architectural artefacts.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    The fact is that India today is more politically fractious than it has ever been. Neither the Congress nor the BJP nor the dozens of regional parties that play king-makers have been able to reconcile the contractions that make India. Reforms of the 90s created powerful oligarchs and a richer middle class, but the poor ended up poorer, and corruption is the norm. As before, India blunders along.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    Indian GOP (Congress) need to learn a lesson or two from its American counterpart (Republicans).

    It seems that Dr Singh's administration is Indian version George W Bush admin. Unless Congress learn it lesson and come out from the perpetual mode of denial, which is very unlikely, its future along with many of its "leaders", is not very bright either.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    Whose Dukaan is Congress?
    http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?282815

    It is shameful and ruthless that James Cameron desperate to sustain the Financial bubble is dealing with the Indian Oligarchs like Ambanis(KG Gas basin),Tata etc who stole away billions in recent scams and meeting Modi and widow of highly corrupt Y.S.Rajasekhar Reddy(KG Gas basin?)

    Then give LiveAid,International Aid eh?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    I'm not sure why Congress first promises accountability of its leaders & then keep on shifting the gal post to save them.

    We know during recent Bihar & UP election Prince Gandhi took "all responsibility & accountability". As expected not a single hair of "heir apparent" were touched after poll debacle.
    His empty threat to sue Dr Swami over corruption charge did little to help Congress either.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    It seems that Congress is at its last few days at ICU grasping for air. Congress leadership needs to understand that it must change style of functioning in this age of internet, cable TV & rising middle class ambition that its previous PMs (e.g highly corrupt & criminal minded Indira Gandhi) did not face.
    It cannot keep every scams by its leaders under wrap, expect money & power will do the rest.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 4.

    Mukhesh Ambani stole billions in the KG Gas basin etc sold away to British Petroleum.Tata stole billions in 2G scam,Coal scam etc is an Advisor to British PM James Cameron.These Oligarchs subvert Indian policy by funding ALL Parties n Media, rob India in the name of Licenses,SEZs,Mines etc pay almost Nil tax and make obscene profits by selling away shares to Global MNCs.Our only hope is Team Anna

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 3.

    Cong (i) PM Indira Gandhi like Indira Housing, Congress state govt's like CM YSR allowed Iron ore mining scam and
    corruption in the name of welfare schemes like Rs1/kg food,MNREGA,Sarva shiksha Abyaan etc apart from massive corruption in CWG,Adarsh,2G Scam,Madhu Koda,Maharashtra Irrigation Scam,Haryana Land Scam since 20yrs&Robert Vadra Scam.No matter what it does has corruption money is involved.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2.

    Quick.

    Send them some aid!

 

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