The Shaking Pillar

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Congress needs a clear, firm and inspiring leader to survive

AT a time when the Congress party faces an existential crisis and has to focus its entire attention to curb the no holds barred expansion of the Bharatiya Janata Party, it lacks a clear, firm and inspiring leadership. The leadership should be uniting and strengthening its ranks but instead it has decided to ignore the call of the Group of 23, as the senior party men demanding a clear and firm leadership have been dubbed. The only way the party can claim the largest share of the Opposition space is to have a leader who can inspire hope among people with a different vision in contrast to the BJP’s. The party has been without a president since Rahul Gandhi resigned, taking responsibility for poor showing of the party in the parliamentary elections held in 2019.

Following his resignation, Sonia Gandhi, who had passed on the baton to him, took temporary charge of leadership. However, her health issues have been coming in the way of full-time leadership. The Gandhis do not want any senior non-family man to take over the leadership who might take the party away from their control. Following a series of setbacks the Group of 23 wrote to Sonia Gandhi seeking revival of the party and election of full-time president in August last year. The group has been seen with suspicious eyes and often been scorned by the Gandhi family loyalists, making party followers wonder whether seeking revival of the party was against the party principles. It is clear that the downfall of the Congress is for lack of direction. The party’s woes have been compounded by the sycophants, who want to reward themselves by using their art at the cost of well-meaning senior Congressmen who have put in decades of service for the party.

Since the BJP wrested power from the Congress it has gone on to capture one state after another, while the Congress has been losing power which can be attributed to poor party leadership. Of course the BJP has poached MLAs of the Congress and grabbed power even in states where the voters did not give it a mandate, but that again can be attributed to bad party leadership which is making party MLAs lose faith in the future of the party. In the latest case the Congress saw its government fall in Puducherry a few days ahead of the announcement of the election schedule to its Assembly. It is apparent that the Congress leadership has not been able to chalk out a strategy to stop the BJP march by the power of political corruption, if not by the power of vote.

It is really pathetic to see that a party which ruled the country for close to four decades since Independence cannot find a full-time leader. A number of leaders and workers in the party want Rahul Gandhi, who is the de facto leader, to return as president but his appointment has been delayed indefinitely as he has failed to come up with a reasonable performance at the elections that have taken place since he resigned. With Congress losing almost all elections the occasion to reappoint Rahul has eluded the party.

The Nehru family has been the fulcrum of the Congress. Nehru was the second most important leader after Gandhi in the Congress party during the struggle for Independence from the British rule. He was the overwhelming choice for prime minister’s office in Independent India. However, the cult of the family actually began with Indira Gandhi, who became prime minister after two years of prime ministership of Lal Bahadur Shastri. After Indira’s assassination, it was Rajiv Gandhi; after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, it was Sonia Gandhi; and after Sonia Gandhi’s serious health issues, it was Rahul Gandhi. The cult of the Nehru family has been the central pillar of the Congress political palace. It is that central pillar which is shaking. The fundamental dilemma the party faces is whether it should continue hoping to survive with a shaking central pillar or build an altogether new central pillar from materials outside the Nehru yard. It has to resolve the dilemma soonest or it may cease to survive.