Congress: The tale of travesty and tragedy

Anil Anand
How not to use an opportunity to one’s advantage that too when rival does not wait for an opportunity but creates one to hit back hard? The perfect answer is in two parts: Indian National Congress or Congress for the first part and the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP for the other part of the question.
Who better than the Congress high command (read president) to give classes on how not to take benefit of an arising favourable situation, creating one is beyond them and rightly too. But that certainly is not to suggest, as many columnists and news channels anchors/journalists, will make us believe, that the president and her advisors are motley unaware of the political happenings or developments around. On the contrary it is a strong reflection of the war of attrition going on in the Congress for quite some time and has intensified of late.
The old guard has been vehemently resisting any generational change whereas the restive younger lot has not only caved in under their pressure but started breaking ranks with the same Gandhi family which had given them unbridled access even to their households. Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia (now a Rajya Sabha MP of BJP) and Mr Sachin Pilot (thankfully pulled back when he was about to cross the threshold), represent this younger lots anxiety or more aptly opportunism. The patience seems to have scored over impatience giving an opportunity to political rivals to strike.
It is both a tale of travesty and tragedy for Congress. And fitting this bill are two recent developments concerning the party. As a morale booster the beleaguered party managed to thwart the rebellion in Congress, spearheaded by Mr Pilot, and save its majority Government. Of course the rebellion on the lines of Madhya Pradesh where Mr Scindia was successful to pull down his own party’s government to pave for BJP to take over reins was again linked to the BJP.
The other development was the end of Congress’ interim president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s term on August 10 under this status. Contrary to the expectations of not only the Congress persons but all outside it that the issue of president would be decided before that, it did not happen. In came the announcement made by the party’s spokesman, Mr Manu Abhishek Singhvi that despite her one year term as interim president ending it would be wrong to estimate that the post would automatically fall vacant that day.
“Sonia Gandhi is the president, she will continue till such time as a proper procedure is implemented and it will be implemented in the not too distant future,” he slammed the door on this issue.
The tale of travesty and tragedy is that Mrs Gandhi’s one year term as interim president ended on or near the day the coup in Rajasthan was averted and Mr Pilot made his “ghar wapsi”. Both these developments contradict each other. First provided the party with an opportunity and a moment to rejoice and strategise to strike back at political rivals with gusto, whereas the other development strongly confirming the Congress’ status quo ante approach took the sheen away from the Rajasthan victory. And thereby the opportunity lost to hit at the BJP after having lost the governments in Madhya Pradesh and some other states to machinations and desertions overseen by the latter.
Unlike his public image of a low-profile politician and a man of few words, the cornered Rajasthan chief minister, Mr Ashok Gehlot suddenly found his lost voice and acquired the image of a politically old warhorse that surprised everyone by using the harshest of words against rebellious Mr Pilot. And to the contrary the younger leader kept his cool and to the dismay of those who were backing him in this plot, he did not retaliate. In the entire Rajasthan episode he had emerged as a villain of peace and lost credibility and the only silver-lining was his matured demeanour in comparison to Mr Gehlot’s outbursts which could not have been without any planning.
This Gehlot versus Pilot episode makes a significant study in the ongoing generational fight in the Congress. Mr Gehlot through his outbursts was ostensibly laying a trap which the young but matured Mr Pilot perhaps saw through and did not fall for it by retaliating.
It would have been better that given the healthy development from the Congress’ point of view in Rajasthan and its potential to become a big political issue at the national level, some decision should have been announced by the party regarding the issue of new president rather than leaving it vaguely perched. At least they should have announced a tentative schedule or enlisted various options before the party rather than putting up a “no vacancy” board which is anti-thesis to democratic processes. Mr Singhvi did make a strong statement to the satisfaction of some in the Congress but broadly speaking it neither had punch nor was it convincing. Keeping the issue open till infinity as Mr Singhvi’s statement suggested, it could be tomorrow or as and when, it would only intensify the generational fight in the party rather than having any calming effect.
If credit goes to former Congress president, Rahul Gandhi and AICC general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to have pulled back Mr Pilot to the party-fold, which in any case he had never left, but the status quo on the issue of president would certainly bring more pressure on him. It would be so because in public perception and which has been created by a section of the Congress also and strengthened by Gandhi himself by regularly cornering Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on various issues, he in all probability would become the president again. It is also strengthened by the fact that despite not holding any party post, he has been in the forefront to deal with various crisis and issues.
What has then prevented the party to take a final decision on his name? In fact, successfully dealing with the situation in Rajasthan would have been an ideal situation for his comeback. The only plausible explanation could be that the old warhorses in the party are still on favourably inclined towards him which is reflected from their total silence in criticising either Mr Modi or his Government on burning issues, and that the interim president and his mother is in some sort of a quandary as how to deal with the situation. She cannot the abandon are take the old colleagues far- granted and at the same time seems to have eyes on Mr Gandhi as her successor.
There is a dire need to put an end to this tale of travesty and tragedy as the options are very limited for Mrs Gandhi and Congress. Decide or perish!.


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