File image: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (left), Rahul Gandhi (centre) and Sonia Gandhi. (Image: PTI)
The Congress has found the secret sauce for making headlines; an all-out fracas within.
Nothing else can explain the Alice in Wonderland goings-on in the grand old party that is experiencing an unparalleled crisis, mostly of its own doing. For a change, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union minister Amit Shah’s Operation Lotus is not the toppling factor. The Congress is destabilising itself.
On a more positive note, there is a churn. But as of now, the primal question is where is it headed? More crucially, will it emerge from this self-inflicted mayhem with enhanced protein or will it be fatally injured, further aggravating its gaping wounds? Will the ham-handed manner of tackling the Punjab crisis have a domino effect across all other Congress-governed states? By the middle of next year when the next round of assembly elections (in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Punjab) will be over, we will know.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has often said that he was not the least bit perturbed when disenchanted party-men left the party. His main pitch has been that the Congress is fighting an ideological battle against the BJP, and those who desert it for greener pastures are essentially morally compromised.
Prima facie, he is right. After all, the BJP and the Congress are as disparate as chalk and chocolate. I have always marvelled at how those who join the BJP (from the Congress) suddenly find the turbo-charged communal predilections of that party transformed overnight into intrinsic nation-builders who are also socially cohesive. So far, so good.
But where Gandhi is completely off-target is the assumption that everyone is driven by pure opportunistic lust for power alone (although that maybe a predominant critical factor for some careerist politicians). For instance, none of the G-23 leaders has any intention of jeopardising the party’s future; in fact, they are the genuine custodians of the Congress’ ideology. None has quit the party, although rest assured, given their impressive credentials they can easily switch sides if they so wished. But they haven’t.
In bracketing others as solely driven by transactional impulses, Gandhi (and his dubious advisers) camouflages the fault-lines within the party that drives people to the brink. It is organisational torpor, ideological muddle, leadership vacuum and diminishing public footprint that is resulted in the departure of many erstwhile Congress assets.
Despite two Lok Sabha blowouts, there has not been a single introspection meeting that charts a future course of action. In short, people who have left are those who lost hope. For fermenting despondency amidst its ranks the responsibility lies at the top. Gandhi needs to take accountability for the extraordinary decline of the political brand of the Congress. For sure it can be resurrected, but it will be naïve to live in denial anymore.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Sushmita Dev, Luizinho Faleiro, etc. have all been heavy-lifters for the Congress in the past. All of us (including this permanently suspended author) have battled severe odds and weathered storms demonstrating tremendous resilience in the past. Since 2011, when the Arvind Kejriwal-Anna Hazare agitation attenuated the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the grand old party has been at the receiving end of media onslaught and electoral drubbing. I salute the spirit of all the ordinary Congress workers who do not live in Lutyens’ Delhi, but are fighting it out for the party day in and night out.
The fact is that instead of blithely overlooking the loss of talent and doing moral grandstanding, the Congress should be working at an Old Boys Reunion strategy; it’s treasured alumni. That celebrated list includes heavyweights such as Sharad Pawar (Maharashtra), Jaganmohan Reddy (Andhra Pradesh), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), and K Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana), among others. A reunification is the need of the hour.
While Kanhaiya Kumar’s ability to invigorate crowds with his remarkable story-telling skills is legendary, and his induction into the party could have strategic upsides, has the party debated on the extreme leftward swing of the Congress, and the repercussions of ignoring India’s booming industry and private enterprise? Manmohan Singh’s “mother of all economic reforms” of 1991 altered India’s growth trajectory; did it not? Is the Congress abandoning its own successful growth model? Have there been internal discussions on the same?
Kapil Sibal hit the nail on the head when he said that no one has any clue as to who is the principal decision-maker in the Congress. Promptly, in an unprecedented response, several party loyalists descended on him, protesting violently, throwing eggs and tomatoes, and smashing his car. Perhaps the entire bizarre over-reaction was a manifestation of what we have been doing of late — hitting our head on the nail.
Sanjay Jha is former National Spokesperson of the Congress, and author of The Great Unravelling: India After 2014. Twitter: @JhaSanjay. Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.