Dear Congress Letter-Writers, "We Are Family" - by Salman Khurshid

The recent developments in the Congress party, are, by all indications, more than a storm in a tea cup. This is so because despite the thousands of tea cups consumed by the authors of the leaked letter over the years at the exclusive club of the AICC, they have chosen to complain about the quality of tea served. But they have left us all wondering if there are tea leaves left at the bottom of their cups for us to read our future. Perhaps we should reconcile to the idea that their notion of democracy entails having the tea and reading the tea leaves themselves. Therefore, those of us who are deprived of tea and scones must make do with the traditional palm-reading of the Congress hand, so to speak.

Curiously, and fortunately, we are all committed and convinced that the battle today is, as Dr Manmohan Singh once described it, for the hearts and minds of the people. We may disagree on whether hand-holding comes first or follows the persuasion of the heart-mind coalition, but surely more than seeking space in the party we have loved, served and sought political sustenance from, we need to ensure that the assault by our adversaries on out institutions and the mind games that challenge the Swacch Bharat of our collective intellect do not squeeze us out completely. We will live to write letters if the Bharat or Hind we believe in does not survive.

But of course the authors will say, "That is exactly the point'". Are we then in agreement, even if we appear to be in opposition? A clue to this will be found in the tone and tenor of each side (the expression is used for want of a better vocabulary) and such attempts to gracefully dialogue our convictions. The last thing to do is to rush for invitations to the high table to be seated for a fresh round of tea. It will help to remind ourselves, this too will pass. In the process, though, we will all have to await judgment on whether we pass the test of being upright and unimpeachable in our handling of the crisis of conscience.

Lest the reader begins to wonder why we are not coming to the point, let me be plain. I have said it already, and I say it again - each one of us understands that human organisations are not perfect and it is enough to constantly strive towards perfection. One might even forbear and not react to sudden spurts of idealism and urgency in seeking reform so long as the protagonists make an effort to explain the urgency. It may, for instance, require the privileged few to step out of their comfort zones and share their cups of tea with the world beyond. It cannot just be a shuffling of seats at the high table and another round of a hot beverage. We have had a traditional host at the head of the table and so they remain, irrespective of how they choose to describe themselves in the current invitation cards. Before jumping to conclusions about our understanding, and indeed commitment to democratic ethos, the self-chosen vox populi must briefly reflect on their own missing mandate, even if the cause is well-intentioned. They must also look afresh at the role of tradition, convention, consensus, legacy, heritage, etc before blindly driving a 'democratic' bulldozer on our existence. If we continue to hold on to our security blankets after they have unilaterally dumped theirs, must we be seen as renegades to modern aspirations?

Our having chosen to continue unflinching allegiance to the leaders who have given us a great deal, both subjectively and objectively (I choose the word "leader" carefully and consciously instead of Party President, etc) must hopefully give them strength but also put an enormous burden on their broad shoulders. They have not let us down before and will surely not let us down now. But we must trust them and certainly cannot assume that we know better. Understandably, we are in unusual, extraordinary times that call for extraordinary initiatives and attitudes. I am not so certain that the drift of the letter is contextually extraordinary.


So where do we go from here? Alternative tea parties are inevitable and we do not complain about not being invited. Sharing cups of tea with the media perhaps could wait as could itchy fingers typing out tweets. It becomes difficult not to respond at all given the pressure of a one-sided occupy social media effort. But honestly, we need to talk, need to remain friends and family. Too many people are unhappy in the country for us to add to the unhappiness quotient. Some people might even suggest that some others should say "Sorry". I would only borrow a line from the film 'Love Story': "Love means never to have to say sorry'". All we need to do is to show a little love. That, incidentally, is the source of democracy.

(Salman Khurshid is a senior advocate, Congress party leader, and is a former Minister of External Affairs.)

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