In absence of a top leadership, the members of Congress party are acting like headless chickens. The leadership vacuum has led to despair, disillusion and finally exodus of many committed Congressmen. Recently there was a public fight between national leaders of Congress.
Sanjay Jha wrote an article in a national English daily. He advocated a review of party policy and importantly, criticized the moribund leadership of Congress with rare candour.
This was of course followed by denunciations from other party leaders hoping to show themselves more loyal to the dynasty. Sanjay Jha himself remained defiant and claimed that he had to write an article as “no one in Congress listens.”
Crisis of Congress
The crisis of Congress is not new. The party has been in decline since the results of 2014 elections. The sporadic victories in state elections have proven to be false hopes.
In many large states like UP, Bihar, Andhra, Bengal etc, it has been practically wiped out. In states like Maharashtra, where it was the ruling party a few years ago, it has become the party at fourth place and has to work under a Shiv Sena Chief Minister.
As Sanjay Jha notes, there is still no criticism of leadership from the party. Compare this to a hundred years ago. From 1917 to 1920, such luminaries as Annie Besant, Madan Mohan Malviya , Motilal Nehru and Lala Lajpat Rai were Presidents of Congress. The contrast could not be starker! Since 1997, Sonia Gandhi has helmed the party with a brief interlude by her son. The All India Congress Committee, the top decision making body is now a retiring home. The average age of General secretaries is above seventy.
The chaos at the top reflects all over the organisation. The state Congress committees are arenas for infighting and are in many states filled with opportunists. The BJP has a famously lean and active organisation even at the level of mohallas. It is not as if it was always so. The change has happened in the last 6-7 years.
In a way, this is not unexpected. The crisis of Congress is largely due to its ideological confusion which has existed since the times of Rajiv Gandhi. Its socialist policy stopped paying dividend in 1980s and since then it has been searching for a new ideology. Rajiv Gandhi experimented with soft Hindutva, but was pulled down by the party. Since the 1990s there has been a struggle between the reform minded section on one side and the socialist populism on the other. Under Sonia, the party has taken a hard turn towards minority appeasement, and started re-experimenting with soft Hindutva since 2017 after several electoral reverses.
One thing that has not left Congress since before independence is the charge of corruption. Mahatma Gandhi criticized corruption in its ranks as early as 1920s. The party formed state governments for the first time in 1937, and again the issue of corruption came up. Mahatma Gandhi not only criticized the party, but also urged to disband it after independence.
The charges have never gone away. Almost all its state and central governments have been accused of corruption. The image has stuck and if the young generation equates politics with corruption, its credit goes to Congress. It has led to further decline in its electoral fortunes.
It is in some states that Congress is still strong. Names of Kerala, Punjab, MP and Rajasthan can be taken in this regard. However, in most of these places regional leaders often can be credited for the success of Congress. Indeed, Captain Amarinder Singh had famously refused to allow Rahul Gandhi to campaign in Punjab elections. This was the case with Andhra Pradesh earlier too. Now YSR Congress rules there after Congress tried to curb the power of Jagan Mohan Reddy after death of YS Rajasekhar Reddy. In the absence of a strong and respected central authority, this is bound to happen.
These conditions, combined with the ambitions of capable leaders and lack of proper respect for them, has resulted in exodus of many mass leaders. The story of Himanta Biswa Sarma is too well known to be repeated here. Recently, Jyotiraditya Scindia, a close personal friend of Rahul and one of the younger faces of Congress, left it for BJP. This trend is likely to accelerate in future.
The party, in the meantime, carries on. There is no rethinking of strategy at the top level. The leadership changes are merely cosmetic. Indeed, the family has captured the party to such an extent that the only real choices are from the Gandhi family. If reports are to be believed, even the mysterious A. K Antony report commissioned after 2014 rout of Congress absolves the family of all blame. According to certain rumors, Rehan Rajiv, the son of Priyanka Vadra, is now being groomed for leadership.
It is a tragedy that the party which once had strong democratic foundations, where Netaji Subhash could defeat a nominee of Mahatma Gandhi in internal elections, has become a byname for corruption, nepotism, and inaction.
(Featured Image source: Outlook)
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