Leadership crisis in Congress

Sagarneel Sinha
The 134 year old Indian National Congress, the oldest party of the country, which still remains the largest opposition party, is going through its worst phase – the party had ever seen after the independence of the country. Congress lost the Lok Sabha elections very badly despite being in opposition for the last five years with the party almost being wiped out in the Hindi heartland and its the then president Rahul Gandhi himself losing his seat from Amethi, the traditional Gandhi family burrow. Adding to that, Rahul Gandhi’s resignation from the post of presidentship of the party has completely left the party headless.
It is this crisis which has created uncertainty about the future of the Congress party, although party leaders are expressing hope of the party’s overpowering the crisis. But the truth is that this crisis is not so simple and most probably party leaders too are aware of it. The present situation after the election debacle points to a very rocky future ahead for the party. Already two-thirds of Congress MLAs of Telangana and Goa have merged with Telangana Rashtra Samithi and BJP respectively. Party’s prominent MLA in Gujarat Alpesh Thakur, a key OBC face during the 2017 Gujarat elections, too has resigned from the party after cross voting for BJP candidates in the Rajya Sabha by-polls. Karnataka, where the party heads the coalition government with Janata Dal (Secular) too seems to be slipping away from its hands with a dozen of Congress and 3 JDS MLAs resigning from their posts. Some are too pointing out that Madhya Pradesh is in the beeline where Congress government led by Kamal Nath enjoys a wafer majority supported by Samajwadi Party, BSP and independents.
Obviously, Congress is blaming BJP for engineering the political drama in Karnataka and Goa by luring the MLAs with moneybags. The party recently also staged protest in the premises of Parliament House with the slogan of “save democracy” led by Sonia Gandhi where Rahul too was present. This is the problem of the Congress party. Instead of introspecting within itself, the party is always fascinated to put all the blame on its rival BJP. In Karnataka, where the party itself is in power, it should have enquired why its dozen MLAs are resigning from the party with intentions to join the opposition BJP. The campaign of “democracy is in danger under the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” has been propagated by the Congress for the last five years which was heavily rejected by the electorates during this election. But still Congress seems to be fascinated with this idea instead of self-analysing when across the country its MLAs and leaders are jumping from the party’s boat seeing no future within the Congress.
With Rahul Gandhi’s resignation, already the party is headless. But the significant question is will the new party chief be a Gandhi family loyalist like Manmohan Singh or will be a free minded party leader working independently. The present structure of the grand old party makes it very difficult to operate breaking the shackles of the Gandhi family’s strong interference in the party. Already, Sonia Gandhi is re-elected as the Congress Parliamentary Party Chief and Priyanka Gandhi, who failed to lure voters in east Uttar Pradesh, is now appointed as the in-charge of entire Uttar Pradesh which leaves little room for speculation of an independent Congress president. So, the cases are strong that most probably the new party president will be another Manmohan Singh or who knows even Manmohan Singh may himself be elected. But all these developments leave little room for the Congress party to revive.
If the results of the Lok Sabha elections are any indication, then one thing is clear – the electorates have a dislike or disenchantment with the Gandhi family, which has been controlling the party for decades. So, it is time for the party to come out from the shackles of the Gandhi family and try for a new independent non-Gandhi president. For that, party has to restructure the Congress Working Committee, the executive body of the Congress. Although, it’s an open secret that CWC, which has not seen any democratic elections for ages, itself is reduced to a body of Gandhi loyalists with the actual power lying within the family. In the last 50 years, elections were held in CWC only twice when the party was headed by a non-Gandhi president. Not only this, party has to organise elections in the state level committees which too are full of only Gandhi family loyalists. Actually, this long culture of patronage, which is especially continuing since Sonia Gandhi assumed the president post in 1998, has actually disconnected the party from the ground reality.
Another important aspect is Congress has to search for a better alternative if it is really serious to revive and is eager to defeat Modi in 2024 elections. Repeating the same old slogan of “democracy in danger under Modi’s regime” is not working among the voters. Many praised Rahul Gandhi for taking the blame for the party’s disastrous loss but if one analyses what he wrote in his resignation letter, one would be left confused whether Rahul himself was actually taking the responsibility of the defeat. Because in his letter he mentioned that in the elections, he was not fighting Modi but the entire Indian institution. This clearly shows that instead of introspecting his own failure to win the hearts of Indian electorates, Rahul is blaming Modi and RSS for “attacking the constitution and capturing the Indian institutions including media, election commission and judiciary”. According to me, this is really dangerous for the democracy of the country. This is actually arrogance that the Congress party has embraced refusing to learn from the two historic setbacks. It is really unfortunate that instead of respecting the verdict of the Indian electorates, who once again endorsed PM Modi with a thumping majority bigger than that of 2014, Rahul Gandhi is rather refusing to accept the reality.
In his resignation letter, Rahul himself has said of finding himself alone completely at times. Most probably he was referring to his negative campaign against Modi by calling him a “thief” on the Rafael issue without even a single evidence of proof – where he was not even supported by a section of senior Congress leaders. The question is: Why Rahul Gandhi is not ready to introspect his own failure where he himself failed to impress his own senior party leaders? Why would the electorates vote for a party which runs completely an election campaign based on only criticising Modi without offering any credible alternative? On the other hand, Modi’s campaigning, which banked on successful implementation of welfare schemes plus projection of a strong leader in the country, was successful to provide hope to the voters unlike Rahul Gandhi, who completely failed.
For proper functioning, democracy needs a strong ruling party, which the country has, plus a strong opposition. Hope that Congress understands its importance in India’s present scenario and starts putting its house in order by restructuring itself (democratising) from the grassroot levels instead of indulging in the discredited repeated campaign that “India’s constitution and democracy are in danger under Modi’s rule”. Or otherwise should be ready to perish by helping Narendra Modi to fulfill his dream of Congress-mukt Bharat. (IPA)