Of late, the biggest and oldest Indian political Indian National Congress is facing several crises. Be it Rajasthan or Maharashtra, or even at the Centre, this party is now facing difficulties in handling the crises it faces from time and again. At the outset, let us all agree that the Congress post 1969 is totally different from the original Congress founded by Alan Hume. Ever since this party came into the grips of MK Gandhi and Nehru, it has, more or less, become a group led be a selected few.
Having a crisis is not new and every party will have it. However, if the crisis is faced when the party is in power and when it is not in power makes all the difference. When a party is in power, it is possible to cover up, push things under the carpet and keep the affairs going. This party has been in power for 55 of the 67 years since Independence till 2014. Hence, in all these years, whenever crises appeared, they never faced difficulty in hushing-up. It is not a secret that whenever a party is in power, in the Centre, and also in few states, the major challenge the leadership faces is to maintain the status quo and not try to do anything different. In such times, handling people is easy because there will be multiple opportunities to accommodate the ambitious requests of those who create crises.
Courtesy, Modi wave, Congress is out of power since 2014. Not only it is out of power but also it is proving to be a fading force in Indian politics. The deterioration started in the early 90’s. It got an unexpected lease of life in 2004 and more surprisingly (even Congress did not expect) it returned to power in 2014. The media then created a scene as if the party is regaining its lost glory. However, after losing power in 2019, the party is now finding itself incapable of presenting a counter-narrative to Modi-Amit led BJP. Adding insult to injury, the party has been fractured from within by those differences it had from time and again. Congress is a party that had more factions than leaders. When the ambitions soar and you are out of power, Congress is finding it difficult to manage the situation.
Like many problems in organisations, the Congress’ issues start at the very top. It all started with Ms Indira Gandhi. Kamaraj made the biggest-ever blunder that can be attributed to the deteriorated quality of Indian politics and the current status of India, as a country. Perhaps Kamaraj thought that the “dumb-doll” (goongi-gudiya) can be easily manoeuvred as compared to stalwarts like Morarjibapu and other great leaders. It boomeranged and also marked the end of Kamaraj’s career in politics.
Indira Gandhi did not prefer anyone in the party who can grow taller and become a challenge to her. She ensured she had only dummies in the states and for this, she was willing to compromise and played second fiddle to regional parties in the States. She came out with an unique formula of more seats for LS and less seats for Assembly. This paved way for all the sycophants to grow up the ladder in the party. With days it has become a party where only sycophants can join or being a sycophant became the primary criteria to join the party. These sycophants could not digest their peers or colleagues becoming the party leader. Many broke out and created off-shoots. Few returned back to the fold and few were successful in holding their forts in their respective states. While these off-shoots support Congress at the Centre, they fight tooth & nail in their states.
Post Indira, Pranabda aspired to be the leader but the coterie from Delhi ensured to maintain status quo and made Rajiv Gandhi the leader even without assembling the MPs. Later, Sitaram Kesri had to undergo lots of troubles and had an unceremonious exit from the party office. PV Narasimha Rao ably led the Government but when Sonia returned, he too met the fate similar to Kesri.
After the debacle in 2014 (only 44 seats), Sonia Gandhi retreated, however, she too her own sweet time to anoint her heir, Rahul Gandhi at the helm, say 3 years. He introduced his own ideas, created a team which had a mix of older and younger leaders, and ran energetic poll campaigns. It was a different story that he provided more lighter moments in his campaigns. In a way, Rahul Gandhi was one of the primary reasons for BJP to come back in 2019. Congress did see an improvement in their tally – 44 to 52. As usual, the leaders enacted a drama of resignation. Rahul Gandhi resigned but ended up blaming everybody but himself. He suggested that neither he nor anyone from the Nehru-Gandhi family would take charge — however, as everyone expected Sonia Gandhi returned as interim chief shortly after. This drama was repeated by Sonia again in the recent past.
There is no dearth of leaders in this party however, instead of electing some capable leader for the party out of the family, repeatedly, they are committing the same mistake of giving the reins to one or another from the family. All those who raised voices were silenced and were removed from their posts. It is a lame excuse that the party got confused between age and experience. It is believed that Sonia Gandhi and some of her loyalists want Rahul Gandhi to return. And it is also believed that he is reluctant. The party is clueless on what to do next while BJP marches on, managing to effect a smooth transition of leadership from one to another.
If at all Congress is keen to revive it as a party, introspection is required; but Congress is Congress. It is unwilling to do so. Post 2014 debacle, AK Antony led a committee and submitted a report. God knows what its status is. Worse is, after the loss in 2019, no such committee was formed for introspection. Perhaps, according to them it was not a loss as their tally got improved. This sent wrong signals to the youngsters. Forget restructuring, not even calibration was tried.
The media tireless portrayed Rahul Gandhi as the only choice for India’s future. Rahul Gandhi too worked hard to prove them wrong from time and again. An illusion was created that Rahul Gandhi’s ascent to the presidency of the party would bring in generational change in the Congress. However, he was proving to be a disaster. When he stepped down, the old coterie consolidated their place at the cost of party’s growth.
Days are not the same. Every party member has aspirations and one cannot clip their wings sitting from Delhi and still expect loyalty from them. Although it is true that party is bigger than individuals, Congress should also realise that a party is built by individuals. The reason why the Congress’ internal issues matter to the country at large is because they are preventing the party from doing its job — as the primary Opposition party.
Congress voted more than 11 Crore votes in the last election and they are answerable to these voters. The Government is clueless today with Covid-19 management, economic crisis, unemployment, migration of people and many more issues. Congress is neither focussing on these issues nor in their internal party issues. It seems they have already given up 2024 and with similar approach, they won’t be surprised if they lose 2029 too!
Time for Congress to wake up from the slumber. Mamata, Sharad Pawar and many leaders walked out of them. They have a tall leader in Capt Amarinder Singh. They should not try to silence dissent but encourage and introspect. They should engage all their off-shoots, offer an olive branch and try to bring them back to their fold. The leadership should be taken away from the family. They can represent the CWC if they qualify. They should try to bring in internal democracy at all levels.
India needs Congress badly. This is one party have presence all over India unlike other parties who have strong presence in one area and are nowhere in other areas. India needs political parties with national mainstream thinking. If we have to go towards bi-polar democracy, Congress and BJP are the only obvious choices. For this sake, at the least, someone in Congress should step up and start reviving it.