What if Dynasty and Congress go into history?
The old saying is when the fat lady starts to sing, it is the signal that the party is over. What shall we presume when a middle-rung Congress leader publically demands that disciplinary action should be taken against Rahul Gandhi for his remark khoon ki dalali, which insulted both the Prime Minister and Jawans. He said such comments alienate people.
This leader is no fat lady but his statement is in the continuation of the clamour in the party to bring in Priyanka Gandhi, which simply means that many in the Congress have lost confidence in the leadership of Rahul and they have no hope in his ability to lead the party to the winning post.
Does India need the Congress?
The Congress now remains in power in only five states, three of them small and in the North-East. Digvijaya Singh said his party needed surgery, Mani Shankar Aiyar, always loyal to the Gandhis, also admitted that a course of medication was required.
This is an admission, if it was indeed needed, that something is decidedly wrong with the party. Within the party some feel Priyanka might help in UP. But they forget the shadow of Vadra would haunt her. Poll surveys give 8 to 12 seats in UP. How many can Priyanka help to win — 10 or 20? It all totals to 30. Does 30 out of 402 seats in UP Assembly makes it relevant. Rahul has been given up by his own.
Is then a change of leadership the panacea? Congressmen themselves, briefing the press off the record, generally confine their complaints to Rahul Gandhi’s ineptitude. This is true even of disaffected ex-Congressmen like Himanta Biswa Sarma, who helped mastermind the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in Assam. Sarma refuses to criticise the Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The latest to leave the Congress Rita Bahuguna. She has been President of the UP State Unit and spiritedly defended the Gandhis and the party. She blamed Rahul for being unresponsive and added that Khoon ki dalali was the last trigger for her to leave the party.
But a change in leadership will be useful if the party is still in reckoning. I don’t think it is so. The young who are over 65 per cent cannot have any sentiment for it They just know that the UPA led by the Congress broke all records in number of corruption and sleaze cases. The name Congress led by the Gandhis has become an anathema.
Those who call for a Gandhi-mukt Congress make the mistake of still viewing Congress to be based on ideology. It is not, it is based on the principle of dynastic succession. So Congress and Gandhis are inseparable. The party men’s loyalty has come to be directly related to the ability to ensure their success at the hustings. The mother and son have lost that ability. So no wonder the Dynasty is over but for the formal rituals, which will be performed next year when the party loses most state elections. So no Gandhi and no Congress.
A columnist put it nicely, “The Congress’ present-day importance is often exaggerated by a New Delhi-centric view of the country in which national politics holds primacy. Losing the Gandhis would mean losing the Congress. But if one views India as a collection of diverse states, and as a country in need of less and not more centralisation, the death of the Congress is not in itself something to be feared or mourned.”
And don’t forget the advice of the Mahatma to wrap up Congress after Independence. The Bunyan tree it was once has lived beyond its lifespan. And there should be no fear of a monolithic single party rule. Some strong regional parties have come up and they are going to make their presence felt.
Another sign that the party is sinking, under the leadership of the Gandhi, is the regularity with which leaders and senior members are leaving. And this does not include many veterans who have either been cast aside as oldies by Rahul or have themselves taken sanyaas (retirement) from politics. One influential Congress leader in Lucknow said he felt sad that the party that has been built by thousands like him is being hated by the people because of the sleaze in the UPA government which stained the Gandhis as well. “Jab Gangotri hi dushit ho gai, toh Ganga ka kya hoga?” How can Congress survive when its leaders have no credibility?
After the 2014 debacle Congress was reduced to a rump, the mother and son were entrusted by the Congress Working Committee to re-energise the party units in states most of which were lying dormant and make the party battle worthy. But instead it continued to slide down. It lost all assembly elections, just got a slice of power by holding on to the tail of Lalu and Nitish.
The worst was that some states that were ruled by the Congress were also lost. The greatest setback was the loss of Assam, the biggest state in the north-east. On its success, the BJP has enticed many smaller ones. And there could be nothing more insulting to a 131-old-party, which has ruled at the Centre for almost 55 years, that its government and all the MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh resigned from the Congress to form another government.
Rahul seemingly unable to either win elections or even keep his flock together has become expert in alienating especially the middle class by abuses like khoon ki dalali.
As it is he failed, during his one month tour in UP, to convince people that his party was the best to resolve their problems for he devoted most of his speech criticising Modi.
The party leaders did not help matters by questioning the verasity of the surgical strike. The sting operation by CNN/IBN and the intercepts by NewsX confirmed what the government said. The Congress leaders forgot that the three states UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand, out of five going to the polls next year, have a large number of ex-servicemen. By questioning the veracity of the surgical strike, the party has damaged itself.
The Congress Party is, in any case, unlikely to win any of the five states going to polls next year. And then if we consider the poll disasters in states where elections have been held after 2014, the Congress and it star campaigner Rahul Gandhi seem to be irrelevant.
The question whether Rahul has lost relevance to the party and whether the Congress has lost relevance in Indian politics is now become very important to analyse, especially because the party is unlikely to do well, what to say win, in any elections in five states next year.
By Vijay Dutt