The Big Story: The Hand that giveth
On Wednesday, just three days after he was appointed, the Congress removed senior leader Kamal Nath from its list of General Secretaries, which also means he will no longer be overseeing the party's campaign in Punjab. Technically Nath submitted his resignation saying he did not want to be in charge of Punjab and Congress President Sonia Gandhi accepted it, but it was clear where the impulse came from.
Nath is notorious for his alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He has never been convicted in any case, but that is more of a comment on India's investigative capabilities than on his innocence. Even without a conviction, Nath's name is enough to anger many in Punjab who believe he led mobs that attacked Sikhs in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
This was immediately brought up when the party announced that the 69-year-old leader had been made general secretary in-charge of Punjab and Haryana. Other parties seized the opportunity to remind the electorate about the massive blot on the Congress record from 1984, and the party's failure to weed out elements that were allegedly involved at the time. Ostensibly, Nath's resignation comes as a response to these attacks, as the Congress realised that it was diverting focus from the anti-incumbency against the corrupt Shiromani Akali Dal regime.
How couldn't the Congress High Command see this coming? General secretaries are not picked by local units. They would have had to be decided at the highest level, so this wasn't an accident. This means either someone messed up massively or the Congress really thought it could brazen it out with Nath in charge. That lasted just about three days.
2015 may have been good for the Congress, with victory as a junior partner in Bihar and some narrative successes beginning with suit-boot. But this year reminds us how incompetent the party still is. It's facing internal revolts in more than half a dozen states, it managed to lose a Rajya Sabha election because its MLAs deliberately voted with the wrong pen and it still manages to make spectacular mistakes like the Nath appointment. Bringing in strategist Prashant Kishor won't be enough to fix organisational-level problems that keep the party lurching from one blunder to the next.
The Big Scroll
Congress stories inevitably need question marks: What was Kamal Nath, Congress’s new Punjab head, doing with mobs during the 1984 anti-Sikh riot? Did Congress just shoot itself in the foot by putting Kamal Nath in charge of the party in Punjab? Did the Congress really lose a Rajya Sabha seat because its MLAs used the wrong pen? Also, this map shows you how disastrous the last four years have been for the Congress.
1. The Indian Express gets a stunning accidental scoop when a reporter calling a Home Ministry official for a response ends up also recording him coaching a witness in the Ishrat Jahan case.
2. The Bharatiya Janata Party doesn't care much for facts. Even after admitting that its Kairan exodus lists are false, the state unit president is still demanding the ghar wapsi of all those who left.
3. The Bombay High Court may have decided on the Udta Punjab issue but the shadow warfare is not over: A copy of the film, clearly marked "For Censor", was leaked online on Wednesday prompting a production executive to claim it was sabotage.
4. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has admitted that a flyer suggesting that the ministry was supporting an overseas Bharatiya Janata Party Yoga Day event was inaccurate.
1. The Indian Express carries the last column written by Inder Malhotra, a stalwart of Indian journalism who died last week. This one was about India and Pakistan in Jawaharlal Nehru's time.
2. Salil Tripathi in Mint laments the growth of the censorship nanny state, bent upon telling us what we can and can't say.
3. Gopalkrishna Gandhi has a piece with a headline that could only work in The Hindu: "The general drift of society."
Angikaar Choudhury explains why Anil Kumble would be a great choice for coach of the Indian cricket team.
"If those entrusted with the task of choosing India’s next coach wanted to get an idea of Kumble’s motivational skills, they would do well to look at what he did during his brief captaincy tenure. It was under his watch that the infamous Monkeygate scandal erupted during the India-Australia Sydney Test match in 2008.
Kumble handed the situation extremely well. He shunned diplomacy and called a spade a spade – recall his quote at the end of the Test where he said, “Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game”. Beaten, bruised and under the eye of a raging controversy, the Indian team could have easily folded, especially with their next match at Perth, a venue where they had always struggled. But the captain galvanised his team and channelised their frustration onto the field, where India pulled off an emotional victory, something few had expected them to do."