A Leaderless Congress

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People turning away from a party that inspires no hope

In spite of setback after setback, the Congress national leadership continues to be in slumber. Poor Sonia Gandhi does not know how to handle her hibernating son! Senior Congressmen, breaking the age-old tradition of sycophancy, have been speaking out openly to demand that a clear leader of the party be named whoever he may be, Rahul Gandhi or someone else. But the leadership remains in nobody’s office. Rahul Gandhi has resigned as president and a new president has not been elected. When Rahul Gandhi reflects on his actions in his old age he might realise that the biggest mistake he made was to run away from the battlefield after the party’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. A leader is one who accepts defeat and has the resilience and perseverance to rebuild, rearm and reboot his army to inflict a defeat on the rival. He let down the 20-odd percent of voters who had voted for the Congress party in 2019. He let down his party. He let down democracy. He left the field entirely for the BJP to take whatever it wanted.

And the results are obvious. The Bihar Assembly elections and the by-elections in other states have proven it. The Congress faces the prospect of diminishing further in the political reckoning. If electoral reverses continue, even the committed Congress voters would start voting for other parties. The Congress is the oldest party. It is still the largest single party in terms of membership, support, number of MLAs and so on after the BJP. If the Congress fails to arrest its downslide, it would create a vacuum that would be filled by the BJP and other parties. Its failure to arrest the downward slide has forced a number of party men to leave the party and join the BJP. The failure to resolve the leadership issue and infighting among the party’s Goa leaders after the 2017 elections led to the party losing power to the BJP, which despite winning a smaller number of seats managed to form the government. Thereafter the party has seen nearly two-thirds of its legislators joining the BJP and the exodus continued with its leader Urfan Mulla leaving it. The party’s indecisiveness also cost it power in Madhya Pradesh where Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of its front ranking leaders was forced to join hands with BJP because the party failed to heed to his grievances.

Some Congress leaders have been forced to air their grievances in public because nobody was ready to listen to them and take corrective steps to put the party back on rails. This has been seen as an affront by the so-called loyalists, who perhaps are seen as talking for the leadership without any responsibility for their action, so that they remain relevant in the party and their services are recognised. The infighting in the party is also considered as one of the reasons for the party being rejected by the people. It has to be noted that the perceived enemies referred to by the loyalists have followers in different parts of the country who see sidelining of their friends and relations as their rejection and throw their weight behind others including the BJP to teach the Congress a lesson.

The answer to the Congress party’s woes lies not in the blame game but arriving at a consensus to move ahead. The party can take a lesson or two from the reemergence of Indira Gandhi, who after the rout in 1977 made a spectacular comeback. It is for Rahul Gandhi who despite his drawbacks is still the most formidable leader of the party. He has to decide whether he would lead the party or be seen as a leader who enjoys being a part-time leader. The party has to elect a president who can lead the party. The confusion over the leadership would only accelerate the party’s downslide. Of course, it is for the people of India who are voters to decide which party to vote in a state or national election. But nevertheless a party has to try its best to gain their favour. And that cannot happen without a leader who is fit in their eyes and inspires hope.