Dilemma in Troubled Congress Family

By Tukoji R Pandit

New Delhi, Sept 1, 2020 (Syndicate Features) What next for the Congress after the much publicized seven hour ‘stormy’ meeting of the Congress working committee held under the shadow of a letter signed by 23 ‘dissenters’—all senior party leaders? Does it marks the beginning of its total eclipse—said many times before by its detractors–or is the Grand Old Party will now be on way to reviving its fortunes?

The demise of the Congress will be a great blow to Indian democracy which is already under constant onslaught; not because of any special love for the Congress but because no other Opposition party appears capable of filling the political void that may be created if the sun sets over GOP.

Since looking ahead amounts to crystal gazing, a correct prediction will be impossible. However, at the conclusion of the lengthy CWC meeting what became clear, regardless of what one might say, is that the Congress is divided between those who want a party head outside the Nehru-Gandhi family and those who regard that thought as blasphemous.

A vertical split in Congress may not be new but this much also appears to be true that the pro-changers are not going to leave the party in a huff. At the same time those identified as ‘dissenters’ will be looked at suspiciously by the group of ‘loyalists.
No roadmap has emerged from the CWC for quick restoration of the party’s precarious health. It is also evident that the ‘family problem’ will remain a bugbear, which, if left unresolved, does not augur well for the party’s future.

The ‘family’, of course, is a triumvirate of matriarch Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. To aggravate the problem, all three of them are said to be on different pages. Sonia Gandhi for health reasons is understandably uneasy as the party boss. Rahul Gandhi has done little to erase his reputation of being a casual politician. Sometimes compared to her grandmother Indira Gandhi, Priyanka is a late entrant to active politics which puts her at a disadvantage as the torch bearer of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and out of contention for the top post in the party.

The ‘family loyalists’ across the country have made it clear that the job of heading the party cannot be entrusted to an ‘outsider’. Their first preference would appear to be Rahul Gandhi who, all said and done, has been carrying on a virtually lone campaign to ‘expose’ Narendra Modi and his unending goof ups as prime minister.

The CWC meet did end with the promise of electing a permanent Congress president after an AICC session is convened in the next ‘four to six months’. On paper, the election may be open to all members of the party, but an ‘outsider’ has little chance of throwing his or her hat in the leadership ring for fear of being called a ‘gaddar’ or betrayer.

Assuming that the demand for an ‘outsider’ gathers momentum within the party over the next few months, how many names of Congress leaders who can not only rejuvenate the party but prevent its vivisection would conjure up in one’s mind? A plausible answer to this question will be, ‘an outsider’s political acumen cannot be judged without first giving him or her an opportunity to run the party show.’ But will that ‘opportunity’ come?

There is no gainsaying that among all the political parties in India the Congress has a surfeit of leaders of proven intellect. Unfortunately, many, if not most, of these leaders have poor grass root level connect. Their oratory may be very impressive in debates and discussions in the legislatures but not necessarily a hit with the masses. Indians have now got used to hearing speakers whose delivery has theatrical flourishes with plenty of punches that hit below the belt. A strong and effective Indian politician is expected to swing the mood of the masses with word play, pithy slogans and down to earth arguments that may well sound hollow and irrelevant.

The chorus for bringing Rahul Gandhi back as party president more than a year after he had quit that job is louder than the demand for revamping the party with a free election for the Chief’s post. Then, what was the point of calling the CWC meeting?

An interesting but not surprising fact that emerged after the CWC meeting was that many of the 23 signatories of the letter addressed to Sonia Gandhi which had demanded consideration of urgent internal reforms joined the chorus demanding reinstatement of Rahul Gandhi or any other member of the Nehru-Gandhi family as the party president. It made a mockery of the letter writing exercise taken up by the ‘dissenters’ as well as the CWC meeting.

An overwhelming section within the Congress thinks that Rahul Gandhi faces the TINA (There is no Alternative) factor within the Congress. It may be attributed to sycophancy but it has more to do with a survival instinct. Only the Nehru-Gandhi clan can protect the party from falling apart because the party has too many stalwarts who will not be happy to work under the tutelage of a non-Nehru-Gandhi.

Unity in the party has acquired more importance after the regular exodus of many party leaders ever since the ‘Modified’ BJP came to power. The poaching power of the ruling BJP has seen the Congress losing majority in many state assemblies. The BJP juggernaut was stopped recently in Rajasthan but, reportedly, after the intervention of the Nehru-Gandhis.

There may well be another equally important factor for Congress members to keep singing the Nehru-Gandhi chorus. For all the ridicule that he receives in abundance from his rivals and the media, Rahul Gandhi has shown a stronger will to take on the ruling party and its formidable commander. Most of his attacks may have come from the social media platforms and quite a few of them may have boomeranged on him but he carries on a battle with little support from the other Opposition parties or even his own party colleagues.

An impression exists that Rahul Gandhi does not like to introspect about his attacks failing to deliver a knockout punch? Obviously, he trusts his own counsel to the point of being a lone ranger. Does that make him fit to run the GOP? (Syndicate Features)

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