In the recent elections in the five states, the Congress was expected to do well except in UP, but it not only lost power in Punjab but failed to secure majority in any of the other states. The performance, to say the least is pretty poor.
Punjab was a classical example. The taking in of Navjot Sindhu after his resignation from the BJP seems a colossal mistake on hindsight. A man who seems crazy of power and who had sulked when not made captain of the national cricket team; literally dismantled the party in the state. His fight with Captain Amarinder Singh where the latter lost due to the support of the Gandhi family to Sindhu and his continuing fight with the new CM Channi was the root cause of the poor performance.
Punjab has shown that people want good governance and past record is irrelevant. Despite Sonia Gandhi’s claim that it was she who propped Captain despite opposition from party MLAs and dropping him was too delayed, the fact is once the Gandhis changed the state party President, all MLAs deserted Captain and even Sunil Jakhar was also left fuming. Almost all bigwigs lost in the election with AAP rising to power and Punjab showed power is ephemeral.
Congress failure from Indira Gandhi’s time is the inability to tolerate local or regional satrap. This is perhaps due to insecurity that these leaders if they become too powerful may seek change in the national leadership. The G23 had questioned the ability of the Gandhis to lead the party back to power. Many local leaders have been cut to size systematically, of which Captain is the latest. Many had fallen out and had either joined other parties and or have taken political sanyas.
If the Congress wants to challenge the BJP, it needs to nurture strong local leaders. Why do the regional parties like AITC, DMK, BJD, TRS, YSRCP, AAP etc defeat BJP in their respective states? The answer is strong local or regional leaders who had the gumption to meet the challenges of the BJP which goes by the formula 80:20 propounded by Yogi Adityanath. If the demography equation is a bit different and the opposition led by a strong leader, BJP is beatable as shown in these states.
But Congress refuses to change and its inability to adapt with time and trying to continue as the grand old party will ultimately lead to its irrelevancy. A party whose contribution in the freedom struggle is now struggling for its survival! Despite these weaknesses, BJP is still wary of this party as it still remembers the drubbing Congress had given in January 1980 after Indira Gandhi was written off after the emergency and the return of the Congress in 2004 after being out of power for two terms. These two incidents are like the rise of the phoenix from ashes. Thus their campaign of “Congress Mukt Bharat” with every effort made to deride the Gandhi-Nehru family; even using trolls in the social media. It believes that without a Gandhi-Nehru in the lead, the Congress cannot survive which quite a few Congressmen also felt. It also believes that Congress is the only party which can challenge the BJP at the national level. With the Gandhi-Nehru family in the lead, the BJP have a good target to throw all their ire much to its advantage.
Any political party which do not have inner-party democracy cannot function democratically in the government and all political parties irrespective of the hues are autocratic and party elections are being given a go by and state president are not elected properly but foisted on the state unit. The problem with Congress is that the two siblings just do not have the mettle to lead the party to victory. They are so out of touch with reality and the masses, that they do not have any qualification to be a political leader except that they were born to the Gandhi-Nehru family. The family fears that handing over power to others may lead to their marginalisation, especially if the party met with success under others. So rather than handing over power to others to revive the party, the family feels satisfied to see its demise with them in the helm.
Many Congressmen feel that without a Gandhi-Nehru leading the party it will no longer have the character of the party. Then there are many who demanded a change in the functioning. The former have short memories as in the past, the party president was not from the family. It was only later that the system of the family heading the party evolved mainly due to inferiority complex and the mistrust it had over others.
The son who is over 50 still thinks he is a youth and behaves irresponsibly on many an occasion. His tearing off a copy of a Bill still remains in one’s memory showing his childish mentality. The daughter was touted as a more mature person and so she is, but she is totally disconnect with the masses. Why can’t the Congress evolve with time and bring an understanding within the party where Sonia continues as the party president with one who is competent given the role of working president with all powers to make the party relevant. She can be like the Lifetime President in many organisations which was an honour with limited role. If the party revives, she can still claim some glory.
This proposition is not for the love of the party as this party had bled Manipur by ensuring Manipur joins the Dominion of India, gifted Kabaw valley without any discussion with the state, forcing it to be a colony under the Dewan/Chief Commissioner/ Lt Governor till statehood in 1972, etc. But the country deserves a strong opposition party or else the ruling party will become more and more autocratic which is even being felt now. Even Nitin Gadkari was of this view. Congress was autocratic at one time so much so that DK Barooah once said “India is Indira and Indira is India” and it was she who started the concept of patrimonialism where one takes all the decisions which is now seen all over again with Modi being turned into a demi-god who can do no wrong.
Many refuse to believe that all his speeches were written by ghost writer and reading these out from the teleprompter. He is yet to have a proper press conference as he seems to lack the ability to field inconvenient questions and only meets one to one some media person with pre-arranged questions. Even his bloomers were twisted to be a success like the demonetisation, early implementation of GST without full preparation, lockdown across the country with a few hours notice during the first wave of COVID, etc.
The propaganda machinery was so proactive that even vaccination was publicised as a gift of this man as if he foot all the bills. Any government in power has to ensure the safety of its people and that is its main duty. The President of Ukraine who showed his courage refusing to leave his country after the Russian invasion and literally led his people to fight back, giving a real fight to the Russian which thought that within 15 days the country will be theirs. Putin’s grand desire to bring back the old glory of USSR is likely to meet the same fate of Stalin when he invaded Finland in 1939 where the Soviets were literally was given a bloody nose by the Finns.
The five state Congress party presidents were made to resign after the debacle in the elections. But what about the National leadership, should they also not own some responsibility for the debacle. Sonia’s offer to resign after the electoral debacle is nothing but playing with emotions. In the state also the nomination of someone who is in talks with the BJP as the State unit President with the hope that it will stop the effort came to naught and the desertion by the state party president weakened the party considerably which was felt in the recent elections.
For the Congress to survive in the 21st Century the most competent must be made to lead the party at the national level and the state leadership must be given full powers to organise the party at the state level and such leaders must be encouraged rather than back-stabbed, or else the country will be run like an autocracy with no opposition; a dangerous portent. The bringing in of Prashant Kishor, if it happens at all, may see a change provided the party is ready to change. But it need to remember that targeting PM Modi may have no impact like the astounding return of Indira in 1980 though she was the target of all.
(The views expressed are personal)