About four months back, Congress leader Jyothiraditya Scindia revolted against the Congress leadership and walked away with 22 MLAs and it led to the fall of the Kamal Nath led government in Madhya Pradesh. He not only joined the BJP and got elected as a member of Rajya Sabha but also forced Shivraj Singh, the Chief Minister, to include 14 of his supporters in the 34 member ministry and allot to them key portfolios. The BJP once again proved its adeptness in toppling one more Congress led government. At the same time, the leadership of the Congress exhibited once again its ineptness to deal with inner party conflicts and its incapacity to resist the onslaught of the BJP.
Just after the fiasco in MP, many political observers had expressed doubt whether Sachin Pilot, the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, would also follow the path of Jyothiraditya Scindia. The tussle between Ashok Gehlot, the Rajasthan Chief Minister and Sachin had started when the latter’s ambition to become the CM was thwarted by the former. There were constant frictions between the two leaders that would have exploded into a serious crisis. As in the case of Madhya Pradesh, the central leadership of the Congress did not do anything to reconcile the differences between the two leaders. A bizarre notice issued to Pilot, among others, by the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operation Group, to record their statements in connection with the arrest of two BJP leaders allegedly conspiring to topple the Congress government, led to the revolt by Pilot and his supporters on 12th July.
Failure of Sachin Pilot to attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting held in Jaipur on 14th July invited disciplinary action against him. The Congress sacked Sachin Pilot from the posts of Rajasthan's deputy chief minister and the party's state unit chief, two days after he openly revolted against the Ashok Gehlot-led government. Ashok Gehlot has claimed that he has the support of 107 MLAs in a house of 200. However, the stability of the Congress government in Rajasthan has become fragile. It is a pity that at a time when the Government’s whole attention is to be focused on fighting Covid 19 and providing succour to millions of people who are losing their livelihood, it is forced fight for its own survival. The Congress miserably failed to learn any lesson from the fall of its governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress appears to be a sinking ship. The young leaders in the party do not see any scope for the future. The old generation in the party seems to have lost its energy to fight back the BJP and at the same time the seniors are not ready to hand over the reins of the party to the young leaders. No credible efforts are being made to rejuvenate the party. On the other hand, the BJP is always in an election mode and it leaves no stone unturned to topple the Congress governments. It is also ready to embrace any disgruntled Congress leader. It makes use of all opportunities to realize its dream of a Congress mukth Bharat. Against this backdrop it is quite natural for the young leaders to desert the party.
Ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre under the leadership of Narendra Modi in 2014 the Congress has been facing an existential crisis. During the last six years it could not make a thorough analysis of its rejection by the electorate in 2014 and 2019. Ups and downs in the life of a political party are natural. But the rout of the Congress was so humiliating that it got the lowest number of Lok Sabha seats in its history. Hence it was urgent for the party to make a systematic analysis of the causes for its rejection by the people and to explore the ways and means for its rejuvenation. In the absence of such an exercise the party cadres and the people are losing their faith in the party. A moribund Congress has been unable to inspire confidence in the other opposition parties and forge a united opposition to counter the anti-people and anti-democratic policies of the BJP.
The main malady of the Congress party is the leadership vacuum. After the second debacle in the Lok Sabha election 2019 Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post of the president of the party, accepting the moral responsibility of the rout in the election. He also declared publically that no one from the Gandhi family should be elected to the topmost leadership of the party. This was an opportunity for the Congress to install a leader from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family which has been the target of the BJP for a long time. For about two months the Congress dithered taking a decision. This period was very crucial for the party to instil confidence in the party workers by rejuvenating the party and planning new strategies.
After more than two months of indecision the party appointed Sonia Gandhi as the interim Congress president. This again sent signals of confusion and uncertainty to the party workers and the general public. On August 11, 2020, Sonia Gandhi will be completing one year as the interim president. During this period the Congress lost two state governments, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and third one is facing an existential crisis with the revolt of Sachin Pilot. Many workers and MLAs switched over to the BJP. In proportion to the weakening the authority of the leadership there has been erosion in the discipline within the party.
For all practical purpose the leadership of the Congress party is concentrated in the Gandhi family. Sonia is the interim president; Rahul is very active by making personal attacks on the Prime Minister Modi and Priyanka Gandhi is playing a larger role in the party as the General Secretary. This situation suits well for the BJP’s narrative. It goes on harping that the family has no intention for ever to give up the hold on the Congress and people get the impression that the Congress is happy to get rid of smart young politicians who could pose a threat to Rahul.
Sagarika Ghose in her article, “Why BJP needs Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’ more than Congress” has explained the usefulness of the Nehru- Gandhi family for BJP’s politics. She writes, “The singular focus on the Gandhis serves many purposes. One, it allows the BJP to build its own profile while diminishing another, two, it distracts from any real governance failings, and three, any serious questions on public health or the floundering economy or China can be easily dismissed as nothing but laments from ‘ darbaris’ or ‘family chamchas’”.
As per the media reports, Sachin Pilot has said that he has no plan to join the BJP. “I am not joining the BJP. I would like to make it clear that I have no plans to join the BJP. It is an attempt to malign me by linking me to the BJP,” Sachin Pilot told NDTV. The leaders who desert the Congress and join the BJP are betraying themselves. They are joining a party whose ideology is diametrically opposed to the ideology in which they have believed. The ideology of the BJP is antithetical to the values enshrined in the Constitution of India. For the sake of power and perks these leaders are selling souls. If they form a party and fight for the constitutional values that are being destroyed both by the BJP and the Congress, the people of India will appreciate their sincerity.
The disasters the Congress has been facing for more than one year are mainly due to the uncertainty of leadership. The public gets the impression that the Congress is in ICU. The toppling of its state governments by the BJP and the desertion of its workers and MLAs are mainly the result of the leadership paralysis. If this situation continues the consequence will be fatal. What is urgently needed for saving the Congress is settling the leadership issue.
Rahul Gandhi has either to accept the leadership of the Congress party and commit himself for reinventing the party or he should take the initiative to find a dynamic leader who has the capacity to rebuild the party. As Sagarika Ghose has mentioned in her above mentioned article, “The sixth generation Gandhis are politically far too weak to fight the Modi-led BJP and need to make place for a new Congress leadership”. At the same time, Nehru Gandhi family can play a crucial role in facilitating the selection of the new leader of the party and allow him/her function without any remote control.
Rejuvenating and reimagining of the Congress party is essential for saving democracy in India because the Congress is the only party with a pan Indian presence at present. As Ramachandra Guha has written in his write up, “The Gutting of Indian Democracy by Modi-Shah” in NDTV News on July 14, India has become an “election-only democracy”. “In a proper democracy, a democracy worth the name, the authoritarian tendencies of leaders elected to public office are kept in check by such institutions as a functioning parliament, a free press, an independent civil service, and an independent judiciary.”
Ever since the BJP took over the reins of the Central government in 2014, the institutions like the media, judiciary, election commission, investigating agencies, Reserve Bank of India, army etc. are being emaciated. Instances of encounter killing by the police have become rampant. The recent encounter killing of gangster Vikas Dube and his collaborators are classical examples of evading the criminal justice system. Those who oppose the policies of the government or having dissenting views are branded as terrorists or urban naxalites and put behind the bars.
In any democracy the ruling party has the tendency to become dictatorial in the absence of a strong opposition. In the case of India the opposition parties are numerically weak. Moreover, they are divided on the basis of region, caste and religion and the ruling party has the capacity to purchase them whenever needed. The main opposition party, the Congress, is expected to mobilize and unite the opposition against the dictatorial and draconian policies of the ruling party. Since the Congress itself is in paralysis, it is incapable of performing its responsibility towards the people of India. Hence its revival and reinventing are urgently needed to save and strengthen the secular democracy of India.
(email@example.com)(Published on 20th July 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 30)