Congress In State Of Cataclysm
Those were the days: The list of MPs was being read out at the highest party body, presided by Jawaharlal Nehru and attended by most Congress chief ministers. Jagjivan Ram, general secretary, took out the list of prospective MP candidates for West Bengal and asked Panditji whether he should read out the names. Panditji looked at his watch, it was getting to lunch time but he asked Jagjivan Ram to read. This is when the West Bengal Chief Minister Dr BC Roy interrupted, “Jawahar, I have okayed it. What’s the point of reading it again. Let’s go for lunch.” And off they went for lunch.
Now-a-days: No state leader ever dare send a list of candidates for the Lok Sabha. Even a suggestion is subjected to scrutiny by the high command (read Rahul Gandhi). The list is on the contrary reportedly prepared by Rahul and his advisers, most of whom have no knowledge of the culture and ethos of villagers or of even those living in taluka towns. The tragic outcome of this central selection of candidates was evident from the results of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. But no lessons were learnt.
The Congress Party post-general election is disseminated to a shameful 44, which is equal to the number of BJP in Maharashtra. Why this vertical difference between the recent past and now in the party culture? Surely the dogma of utter loyalty based on the principle of Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade—Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why….
Expectations and hopes were high from the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, which was being held against the backdrop of the rout in the general elections. The party got zero number of seats in twelve states and did not reach double-digit success in any. The stalwarts like Mani Shankar Aiyer lost their deposits, even Rahul survived scary moments to win by just one lakh votes against Smriti Irani, who came to his decade-old constituency just over a month before the polling day.
The banyan tree, to recall famous quip of Rajiv Gandhi, fell but this time there was no tremor felt by earth (the Congress). As per reports, the mother and son owned up the responsibility for the debacle and offered to resign, but the members chorused like orphans that they could do nothing without them.
So, the duo graciously accepted their request and decided to stay put. And also as per the tradition, Sonia Gandhi was asked to suggest measures to charge up the party. If she knew how to win elections, why didn’t she brief her son Rahul to use it in the recent general elections? The joke sent from the US by a non-Gujarati NRI aptly describes the outcome of the CWC meet:
“Sonia Gandhi gave her resignation to Sonia Gandhi, which was rejected by Sonia Gandhi because Sonia Gandhi said resignation is not a solution of problems created by Sonia Gandhi.”
After the disastrous results in the state Assembly elections, introspection was promised but nothing was done. Introspection was not done at the CWC meet. Anyway, all the successes are attributed to Rahulji or Soniaji and failures are said to be a collective failure. Once Salman Khurshid said something like the country did not deserve Rahul Gandhi. The sycophancy is in the DNA of the Congress members.
Jyotiraditya Scindia was very brave in candidly rejecting incumbency as the reason for his party’s disastrous result during a panel discussion with Karan Thapar. With a serious face and in sombre tone he said there were several flaws that caused the rout. This was brave, sincere and honest Scindia. But the same Scindia some time ago took Rahulji’s name with such awe to say they all looked for direction from him.
Rahul Gandhi after his anointing as Vice-President and in charge of the campaign at Jaipur promised to tone-up state party organisations to make them ready for electoral battles. But his enthusiasm seemed to sap after his computer-selected nominees were either caught carrying huge unaccounted cash or triggered more dissent against their selection.
The result is that once the only national party has its presence severely constricted. The same people who both sentimentally and emotionally supported the party are loath to even hear the Nehru-Gandhi name. Yet no one dares to tell them to take a walk so that the party could be re-invented.
The Bharatiya Janata Party showed the courage to move on and choose a new leader. Can the Congressmen dare remove the Gandhis who are permanent leaders and replace them with one who has moved on with the times?
The BJP kept in step with today’s aspirational India by moving on from Advani. This was called a betrayal by the media. Nitish and his ilk remarked satirically that it was treacherous to name Modi as prime minister nominee when seniors like Advani were alive. The tallest leader who helped build the party was overlooked. Sushma Swaraj also expressed her displeasure. But Modi single-handedly brought BJP to power.
Why couldn’t the Kamal Naths, the Scindias and the Pilots dare move for a change in the leadership of the party? They were expected to get together and rebuild the party. Kamal Nath has the experience from his Sanjay Gandhi’s days of how to fight the odds and re-establish contact with the people and start rebuilding the goodwill. But Dr Manmohan Singh was blamed the moment he demitted office.
Now if the Gandhis continue, what policies can one expect? Their trusted advisers and friends in the media would no doubt advice stress on secularism. It was till now used by all parties, especially by the Gandhis’ Congress to denigrate the majority and instil fear of the majority in the minority and convince them that without these parties’ protection they were in danger. This has been a time-tested success formula. “Keep majority in doldrums and intellectual confusion and keep the minorities in a permanent state of insecurity.”
The rules of the game have changed. Modi through his nearly 500 rallies and cyber-technology talked of change and development and this directly co-related and synced with the desire of today’s new middle class and global-exposed young, comprising 65 per cent of the electorate of just over 800 million voters’ population.
But this change was not noted by the Gandhis. They continued to campaign in the traditional style—Modi is divisive, 22,000 people will be killed if he came to power, Modi has replaced Advani by Adani, he is corporate friendly, does not care for the poor.
They said Congress has always been poor friendly, then Rahul would relate the advantages of the pro-poor welfare schemes, which the leftists and Utopian dreamers in the National Advisory Council had drafted. The rising inflation and runaway prices, which angered and alienated most voters because of these schemes, did not occur to Rahul or his mother.
The election showed that these voters did not want just to reject Congress but punish it for all the misery they have gone through during the UPA. All this shows the moribund state of the 129-year-old party and that of the spineless Congressmen who have proved to be worse than worms. At least, worms some time do turn, but not this lot. They seem to be in a perennial state of indolence. And worse in stupor, hypnotised by the feudalistic grandeur of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
Congressmen, who seem to growl at the very mention of Narendra Modi and bare their teeth as if they would devour him, lose their voice in front of the Family. It is no surprise then that even after the dissemination of the party following a campaign run by Rahul Gandhi, nothing has changed. The patronage and durbari culture would continue. The old loyalists like Jayanti Natrajan, Singhvis, Aiyers and not to forget the real warrior Sanjay Jha, who falls but rises to fight, a champion of fighters for lost causes, would continue to mouth inanities. They have swallowed all the dark predictions about the BJP and Modi. What dark forebodings they would warn us about now?
Oprah Winfry’s sage advice ‘turn your wounds into wisdom’ is not something the supine Congress members seeped into the ji huzoor tradition would heed. It would be interesting to conclude with what the late VP Singh said on board an Air-India 747 cruising at 35,000 feet above from Heathrow to IGIA. “If Sonia Gandhi leaves, Congressmen would become widows.” No wonder Congress members refuse catharsis.
By Vijay Dutt