Wednesday, August 17th, 2022 13:17:35

Agony Within

Updated: November 19, 2015 11:36 am

The 130-year-old Congress Party, which spearheaded the freedom movement, seems to be in its last throes, rudderless and leaderless, it is hurtling down to oblivion. The Gandhis—Mother and Son—who are the present mai-baap of the Party appear incapable of arresting the fall, not to speak of rejuvenating the organisation, which Sonia Gandhi has turned into her fiefdom. They have lost all assembly elections after the thrashing, the Party got in the 2014 General Election. Not only the voters, the Party leaders are now certain that under the mother and son leadership the party is doomed

In such a background, dark forebodings have been prophesised, ironically, by one who was literally the Man Friday of Indira Gandhi, her trusted aide, election agent and adviser, Makhan Lal Fotedar. His loyalty was never in question. Fotedar says: “Rahul Gandhi’s leadership is unacceptable to the people of this country and Sonia Gandhi has her best years behind her. The party has no one to provide direction. It refuses to learn.” This is a critique of the current Nehru-Gandhi dispensation which is as devastating as it is true. Fotedar goes on to say that the party “has made wrong choices while appointing Opposition leaders in both Houses of Parliament. It has made the wrong choices about how to deal with challenges in the assembly elections. In fact, there is nothing right which the party has done or is doing. It saddens me that the Nehru-Indira legacy has reached a cul-de-sac.”

When he was brought by Indira Gandhi to Delhi in 1980, he was also briefed to help Rajiv Gandhi in his initiation into politics. Rajiv then brought his friend Vijay Dhar. I remember the late Abul Ghani

Lone telling me, Indira Gandhi could find only Kashmiri pundits for her set-up. Until her death, Fotedar was her most trusted adviser. In fact after her death, he was inconsolable. So much so that Arun Nehru reportedly told him the following morning, to stop crying, and try contact MPs to come to Delhi. Since then he has, although a member of the CWC, been kept away by Rahul.

But a shrewd political observer and strategist Fotedar has been watching the decline and fall of the party. And that he has recorded in his book the Chinar Leaves. It contains the boldest analysis of the future of the party if the mother and son duo continue to rule.

He has poured out all his frustration and disenchantment over the manner in which Sonia has been managing the party and Rahul’s leadership. But public questioning, of Rahul Gandhi’s political acumen and prediction of a possible challenge to his leadership from within have angered many in the party and attracted charges of a “betrayal”.

But what can be done to save the Party from total annihilation, which seems imminent. Will it help to remove the Gandhis—it might but who will challenge the leadership of Sonia and Rahul? According to Fotedar it is brewing and its only a matter of time, before the duo is challenged.

28-11-2015He has failed to mention the most important reason for the decline of the party and the likely revolt–choking of talent, so no challenger to Rahul comes up. The talent had to suffer the caprices of Rahul and tolerate his low IQ. Only Rahul could be the president of the Party, once Sonia decides to pass the baton. The Congress leaders and members have been so well brain-washed that they just cannot think of revolting against the Gandhis. No Congress man can even dream of the party without a Gandhi. BUT does that assure the survival of the Party.

Once flying to Delhi from London, I found Ammar Rizvi and his wife sitting in the row just after mine and VP Singh and his wife in the first row. After dinner I stood up and joked, “Ammar Rizvi sahib your party cannot raise unless you get rid of your Italian Begum.” His wife started laughing. Rizvi sahib said, “Please Vijay Babu please don’t talk like that, whatever my position is left, I will lose if somebody tells such things to Soniaji.”

By then V.P. Singh came. “Aap log kyon hans rahehain.” I told him what I said about Sonia to Ammar Rizvi. Pat came the response from VP Singh, “Arre, what are you saying. Without Sonia they will all become widows.” This is the crux. The Congressmen have been robotized. For it is the Gandhis who have been getting them elected again and again. The Gandhis knew their capability and that it was the reason for their hold on the members of their party. In 1980, when Indira Gandhi stormed back to power the members who she helped get elected were all gathered at her residence. A Newsweek correspondent asked her why so many people were gathered to which she said,’ because I got them elected.’ The correspondent could not resist from calling her the Empress of India.

Looking back at the history of the Congress, we can definitely say that the loyalty to a leader crudely put is relative to his capacity to attract voters to elect them. This is now beyond Sonia or Rahul. The Prince, who had been campaigning in Bihar has been, like an old stylus stuck on one line of a song, parroting suit-boot ki sarkar and the forecast is that his party will get, if any, much lesser seats than in the current Assembly. So if electoral graph plummets further, the party might suffer another split. It may splinter along its regional fault-lines. This happened in the mid-1990s. The Congress may also split at the central level, reminiscent of the happenings of the late 1970s and earlier. One of the rumps may be led by the Nehru-Gandhi, in case they survive the National Herald case.

Fotedar has already suggested that they can be replaced by Priyanka. In fact that may be the way to save the Congress. With the deadweight of the Nehru-Gandhis cut loose, the Congress under new leadership of Priyanka could get a second life. But her success depends on many ifs and buts. First and foremost is with her husband, RobertVadra factor. He is embroiled in numerous land scams. With him by her side she cannot hope to provide good leadership. There have been rumours about her temperament and that she gets worked up.

Moreover, people seem to just despise the name Gandhi. With an average of one scam a month in the last years of the UPA, led by Sonia Congress, one can’t blame them, if they abhor the very surname Gandhi. The other, original Gandhi has been put into history books, lest he overshadowed the Gandhis, the Royals of the Congress Party .

But coming back to Fotedar’s prophesy of revolt against Sonia or Rahul, one cannot see any probability of it, unless sitting in his Gurgaon house he has been receiving visitors who intend to throw out Sonia and Rahul. Yes, the Dynasty is in danger but Rahul does not seem to have any inkling about it. But, after November 8 which could be the blackest day for the Congress—if it does not fare well another split might be round the corner.

Fotedar’s suggestion about Priyanka has already been discussed. Possibly the best chance of a comeback for the Congress will be under a fresh, young leader with fresh idea. The deadweight of the Nehru-Gandhis will have to be cut loose. But can the Congressmen dare rebel against Sonia. No one dared question any action or statements by either Sonia or Rahul. No appointment or selection was made through election, everything was left to Soniaji. But neither cared to build-up state organisations and naturally without strong election machinery in states, the duo lost the link with voters and their charisma faded. It is possible that with their ability to attract voters gone, Sonia and Rahul could face a challenge.

The Congress Party has lost its national status and has only two major States where it has a government– Karnataka and Assam. But the latter has almost slipped away. Its leaders are no longer given primacy like say about 15 years ago. Now, how Sonia was treated when she recently went to Patna to address a meeting by leaders of the Grand Alliance, Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar is an apt example. The top and senior leaders speak the last. But at this meeting Sonia was asked to address first. This low Congress has fallen. Its President in the present political hierarchy is rated even below Nitish, a state leader and Lalu Yadav, a convict, a sort of jail-bird.

This very Congress was the dominant political party right up to the early 1980s, it had no competition for the political talent it attracted. Political spaces had not opened up for competing ideologies, alternative socio-political narratives, and so forth. The Nehru-Gandhi surname and the flood of political talent kept the Congress party going. Fotedar was representative of those times when politics was not very competitive.

But things changed. New aspirational generations came up, it did not believe in idolation. They had no personal knowledge of sacrifices by Congress leaders; they just read about it in history books. Thus, the surname Gandhi had no special thing for them. But the Congress party did not change. It stuck with the dynasty which had deteriorated in quality and been diminished in its all-India appeal. This together with increased political competition took a toll on the party, whose elected representatives sharply fell in numbers. With the party in decline, its capacity to absorb talent slipped, and talent also found other takers and avenues.

Talent in any case is choked in the Congress, with the top posts blocked for the Nehru-Gandhis. Yet the young like Sachin Pilot cannot easily quit the Congress because of the massive political investments made. They have to silently suffer the mediocrity and caprices of Rahul Gandhi. But new talent is not burdened with past associations and feelings of loyalty. It can move away from the Congress. So it has.

And what is more significant is that many others are being openly critical of the Gandhis. Former foreign minister Natwar Singh wrote Sonia was in grip of sycophants and the corrupt and her life a Greek tragedy. The former Union minister Hans Raj Bharadwaj, once seen as a Nehru-Gandhi “insider”, also accused Sonia of being “in the grip of sycophants and corrupt people”.

This shows how deep the disenchantment with the duo is. They are sitting on a powder-keg, which will blow after one or two electoral disasters. And it will blow away the Sonia Congress into smithereens.

Only then will Sonia and Rahul realise that they have been presiding over liquidation of the oldest national Party. One foreigner established it, another foreigner liquidated it. A joke doing the rounds sums up well. Mother asked Rahul, “Son do attend the Party.” The son responded: “Mama where is the Party.” And we say he has low IQ.

By Vijay Dutt         

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