Cannot win the elections with the Gandhis in. Cannot win the elections with the Gandhis out. As the Congress party in India remains stuck in a lose-lose slush, a collapse could help the party. The foretaste of an imminent Congress collapse was offered by Ghulam Nabi Azad, a senior Congressman of five decades. Azad shock-exited the party recently in disgust and disappointment. He resigned from all party positions, his primary membership included.
This is a worrisome portent for control-freaks the Gandhis are. Azad’s exit is not one ignorable blip. Ominously for the Congress, it is an unmissable signal of the coming collapse. Such a disaster will not bode well for Indian democracy, with no major opposition party to hold incumbent governments accountable.
Adding Power to the Ruling Party
Worse, the timing of Azad’s exit reveals more. The departure has been timed to synchronise with the decision of the Congress party, noted for its lackadaisical approach and laid-back style, to enlist civil society groups for launching its Unite-India march. Right there, the Congress veteran flings his dirty spanner in the Congress works and hits the party where it hurts the most. Azad’s exit could well become the proverbial last straw for the bedraggled party. Azad’s abrupt exit shows the Gandhis in poor light as untrustworthy custodians of the Congress party. This will make the party lose many of the last few constituencies.
When this inevitable happens, it will add more power to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. With a major opposition party of the Gandhis crumbling like chalk, checks and balances in Indian democracy would become fewer. An opposition-less India would surely end up as a ‘dominant one-party democracy’ https://www.jstor.org/stable/2753476. Thus, the coming Congress collapse will be solely the making of a clueless Congress party. Clueless because the party takes pride in having at its helm a non-officeholding Gandhi family scion who is not accountable to anyone. https://www.economist.com/briefing/2020/11/28/narendra-modithreatens-to-turn-india-into-a-one-party-state
Making a Pale Palimpsest
Sure, there are dynasts in other political parties in India. But, nowhere, other than the Congress party, a single political family has controlled the future and destiny of both the party and the country so absolutely and for so long. The crows of dynastic politics are now coming home to roost in the Congress party. Congressmen should stop complaining as they have the option to quit.
This option and the fear of an exodus are turning out to be more bothersome for the Gandhis. Major cracks have begun to appear in the Congress edifice. The fortunes of the party have reached a nadir. Against the backdrop of an organically changing Indian politics, constantly lashed by waves of socio-religious changes, Azad’s exit is seen as an event of great reckoning for the Congress party and India which needs a strong opposition now. Without a meaningful opposition, democracy in India will be a pale palimpsest. Shock-exits of veteran Congressmen drive home this truism.
Clearly, high-profile exits carry potent messages for India and its gasping opposition. The Congress party has been headless for three years now, has failed to take unequivocal stands on issues of national importance and has been too laid back to mobilise people for headlines-hogging empathetic protests. The average Indian voter is beginning to view the party as a clueless Alice in the Indian political wonderland. These inadequacies have brought the party to such a sorry pass, it has to seek support from social groups for organising its Unite-India march. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-andnation/congress-plans-to-prepone-bharat-jodoyatra/articleshow/92882888.cms?from=mdr
As many political analysts see it, the real problem of the Congress party is Rahul Gandhi, who resigned as party president in 2019. Thereon, neither did he agree to be the party’s president nor did he allow anyone else to don the mantle. In turn, he has been controlling the party as its de facto president with remote-controlled sycophants. Dissenters say Rahul Gandhi is running the party with a coterie of security guards, speechless septuagenarians and personal assistants.
Congressmen Not Convinced
These charges are reflections of the worse dilemma the Congress is in today. While the heavyweights think the Congress party cannot survive with the Gandhis in power positions, the featherweights feel insecure about surviving without the Gandhis. Such an existential dilemma is rich fodder for the strategy-driven mills of Modi’s party. The net result is there to see. Non-Congress parties usurp power regularly in states ruled by the Congress, perhaps with the aid of both voluntary and engineered defections. Willy-nilly, such power-hijacks disturb the inbuilt balances in Indian politics and society, besides casting a dark shadow over democracy in India.
What is the way out for the Congress party now? Many Congresswatchers say it is too late to carry out any major surgery. Yet, the Gandhis can demonstrate they are alive to the churnings underway. They can magnanimously relinquish their controls over the Congress party on their own accord. They can desist from foisting their yes-men on the party. They can go great lengths to back young competent members for top party posts. Importantly, they can give up their strategy of controlling remotely.
Unconvinced the Gandhis would be able to do these, Congressmen continue to harp on Rahul Gandhi being childish and immature. True, in the Indian parliament, Rahul Gandhi tore an ordinance which was incubated by his own party and approved by the President of the Indian Union. At once, this puerile act subverted the authority of the prime minister and the Government of India. Again, this lowered the Congress party in the eyes of Indian voters.
More Losses in Store
Naturally, the Congress party is in power in two out of 28 states. The party is a minor partner in two other states. Guided by the pre-poll mood, the Congress party may lose these states too as polls are not far away. What could happen in the general elections of 2024? Politicos assert Modi’s party is already in an election mode, while the Congress HQ shows no signs of having woken up.
The most clued-in analysts believe the 2024 general election may be the Congress party’s last poll outing. Thus, the Congress party may not even qualify as opposition post-2024. Clearly, the Gandhis have just one year to save the party from total extinction. Yet, they have not begun to demonstrate fire in their bellies.
Rankles Aspiring Leaders
No two ways about it. Right now, the Gandhis need to prove the Indian voters wrong by giving up antics for astute politics. They need to treat the disease and not the symptoms. Being firm is different from being phlegmatic. The problem with the Congress party is it is not firm and at the same time phlegmatic. This is a matter of concern, both for the Congress party and Indian democracy.
Equally, despite being an interim president, Sonia Gandhi is conspicuous by her absence in party events, rallies and social media interactions. She is nothing more than a sleeping stakeholder of the Congress party. Yet, she is seen among the Gandhi trio in posters and promotions. This rankles aspiring leaders and the hardworking grassroot party workers. This is why all the three Gandhis need to take a backseat and move away to make front room for new talents to save the party from extinction.
Vulnerable to Manipulative Attacks
The Gandhis need to realise sporadic tweets cannot substitute organic protests. Congressmen should be encouraged to leverage social media as aggressively as Modi’s party does. Even when opponents propagate false narratives to hurt its reputation, the Congress party does not bother to counter them. This skews popular opinion against the Congress party.
Importantly, Rahul Gandhi should not be seen as one who clings on to power without matching official positions, responsibilities and accountability. He holds no post in the party. He is not among the nine general secretaries of the party. He is not holding charge of any of the states and union territories. He is not a member of the party’s 20member Working Committee. Yet, he remains the party’s de facto #1.
This is why the charge of being a dynastic party is exploding so furiously on the face of the Congress party. The recent upheavals in Sri Lanka are fresh in public memory. As any democracy, India needs a strong opposition to rein in incumbent governments from having a free unaccountable run. Sans such an opposition, the responsibility for checking incumbent governments falls on protesters and rallyists, who are vulnerable to manipulative attacks from protagonists of social unrest.
Many More on the Way Out
Thus, it is high time the Congress party reformed itself. The party needs to go for total branch-and-root reformation and restructuring. To put this through, a democratic non-dynast needs to be brought in through fair and transparent organisational elections. About time the Congress party wakes up from its Rip Van Winkle slumber. As we go live, the erudite Shashi Tharoor has declared his desire to contest the election for the Congress party president. Will the Gandhis help in making the organisational elections a non-farcical democratic process? https://www.onmanorama.com/news/kerala/2022/08/30/shashitharoor-congress-president-.html
To date, 64 Congressmen and women have deserted the party under Rahul Gandhi’s watch. Many more on the way out. As many as 51 more Congress men in Jammu & Kashmir are getting ready to call it quits. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/congress-j-k-leaders-resign-joinghulam-nabi-azad-party-1994290-2022-08-30 The way Congress politics is panning out, the party could even lose its measly 50 seats (against the 289 seats of Modi’s party) in the lower house of the Indian parliament.
Enough Time to Cobble Alliances
As we go live, Azad has expressed his desire to form a new regional political party. He hails from the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. In all probability, polls are unlikely to be held in 2022 in the region. This will allow enough time for Modi’s party to cobble alliances needed to wrest control in the troubled border region. Political analysts in India are saying Azad’s proposed party will be Modi’s ‘B team’.
Despite loud denials from Azad, his proposed party may end up striking an alliance with Modi’s party. This is sure to aid Modi and his party register a permanent political presence in the region. Remember, Azad was once chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. He is popular with the Kashmiris. He enjoys good vibes with Modi. These factors will make such an alliance workable.
As more states and territories succumb to the strategies of a manically aggressive party of Modi, his party’s dreams of making India ‘Congressfree’ could come true. This will make India a ‘one-party democracy’, an oxymoron in its own right and it will not be good for Indian democracy. If and when this happens, the blame for such a sham democracy should be squarely laid at the doorsteps of the dynastic Gandhi family.
As we go live, the Congress Presidential aspirant Shashi Tharoor has asserted the Gandhis are not contesting the polls. https://keralakaumudi.com/en/news/news.php?id=893839&u =Though this may be true, India shudders at the prospect of a SoniaManmohan Singh replay. Will the Gandhis desist from transforming a non-Gandhi Congress chief into a ‘puppet president’? Answers from immediate-past history are not assuring. Therein lies the tragedy of the Grand Old Party of India.