Congress saga : the rebels should split

Yesterday the senior Congress leader, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad sounded the bell that all was not well with the Congress party.

Talking to The Indian Express, Azad, leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said the situation of the Congress is “not good” but argued that “making it good is in our hands”. He admitted that “our leaders have lost connection with people on the ground.”

He maintained that the only solution for the party’s revival is organisational election from booth-level upwards. “ The defeat in Bihar and the by-elections is a matter of great concern for the party. And for this, I don’t blame the national leadership. We will not improve our position in any state unless we have the block-level, district-level and PCC-level elections, which has been our demand from Day 1. By demanding this, we are strengthening the hands of the leadership and the party,” he said.

Last august, 23 members of the Congress, which included 5 former state Chief minsters, several former Union ministers and few members of the Congress Working Committee, submitted a letter to the Congress president, mentioning the woes that the party faces in current times. Rather than looking at the intent or the content of the letter, questions were raised about the timing of the letter which was thought to be of some favour to the BJP.

This is not the first time that Congress leadership is facing hardships. With or without a Gandhi at the helm, there have been instances in the past where either the party has come to being split or a faction has split out to start an outfit of their own.

In 1969, it was the ‘syndicate’ versus Mrs Indira Gandhi. The issue was the presidential election where Mrs Gandhi backed Mr VV Giri went on to defeat Mr Neelam Sanjeev Reddy which led to the split of the party.

In early 90s, with the then PM Mr PV Narasimha Rao at the president post, the rebel rousers were Mr Arjun Singh and Mr ND Tewari who left the party to make their own outfits.

In 1998, the Delhi lobby rose against the then Congress president, Mr Seetharam Kesari and dislodged him to give the control to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who went on to become the longest serving president of the Grand Old Party.

With an unbridled control of the party for almost 20 years, sycophancy is bound to creep in. The Gandhis are known to maintain a close coterie, so the resonance is not deep enough. They get to hear only what they want to hear. This becomes a deeper issue when the party organisation comes into picture.

In between this period, for a time of 78 months, Mr Rahul Gandhi remained in charge of the Congress Presidentship. The passing of the presidentship in the family only is the clear indication of culture of dynasty politics in the Congress.

A brief report card of Mr Gandhi is as:

2014 Lok Sabha Elections : 44/542 with a 19.3% vote share.
2019 Lok Sabha Elections : 52/542 with a 19.5% vote share.
The Congress party was able to raise its vote share by a mere 0.2% percentage points over a period of 5 years and that too one where Mr Modi had already completed a term.

In this tenure of 78 months, Congress has fought 44 elections, out of which, it won only 8, which is a in percentage of less than even 20%.

Among the major populous states of India, Congress has been out of power in West Bengal for more than 45 years now. In UP and Bihar, it has been out of power for close to 30 years and in Gujarat it is out of power for the last 15 years.

This is the second longest stretch of 6 years, of the Congress being out of power at the Centre. The longest was from 1996 to 2004, a period of 8 years, when they were out of power.

In politics, being out of power for a great period of time creates discomfort amongst the cadre and doesn’t bind them together. Also, the people start losing faith in the party and starts reflecting on the leadership of the party.

A very strong media team of the BJP which understands the power and reach of social media is not making the task of the Congress any easy. The BJP media cell outwitted the Congress in the 2014  Lok sabha elections through the use of social media and again used the medium in 2019.

They are able to alter the narrative and create an image of a confused leadership and a party in disarray about the Congress. Making matters worse is the actual lack of leadership in the party as Rahul comes across as a reluctant politician and Sonia comes across as someone who wants to establish her son in the Indian political scene !

Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad added that the leaders of the party should stop behaving like 5 star leaders and should spend more time on the ground, amongst the people, as they have lost connect with them. He wanted internal elections to be held for the state, district and block level post holders of the party. He criticised the hereditary culture of the party posts at that level.

What he didn’t address was why the elections are not held for the top post of the party ? Yes, the CWC does elect the party president but the unanimous choice always is a Gandhi ! Even when Rahul resigned from the post, the party couldn’t find anyone else but requested Sonia G to come and save the party.

The so called party loyalists have developed the cult of sycophants around the Gandhis and do not want to see beyond them.

One view can be that right now, with a dominant BJP and a belligerent Shah-Modi combine, no one wants to take the reigns of the sinking ship. Everyone is just patiently waiting for the storm to wear out, the blame settling on the embattled mother son duo and when the tide favours them, a better incumbent can be sought.

Whatever be the situation within but the nation does need a credible opposition to the BJP-RSS government. Other than the Congress no other party is in a position to challenge this juggernaut at the national level. Maybe, a breakaway of the Congress and the full command of the outfit in a full time president is the need of the hour for the party.

A rebellion leading to a split might just be the surgery that the Grand Old Party needs.

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