Fall and fall of Congress
The decline of Congress didn't start with either Sonia or Rahul, it began much earlier. The story of 'crack' between India and its grand old party is about half-a century old.
Incisive remarks by Congress MP Manish Tewari on Sunday last and the scalding resignation letter by veteran leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday have succinctly put across most of the reasons leading to fall and fall of the Grand Old Party (GOP) of Indian politics, over the years.
Tewari, among the group of 23 dissident leaders who had first called for a structural overhaul of Congress, hit the nail on the head when he said, "A crack seems to have appeared in the coordination between India and Congress that existed since 1885. A self-introspection is needed." He sarcastically added, it is "laughable that people who don't have the capacity to fight a ward poll and who worked as peons of Congress members are giving gyaan."
Over the decades, GOP had witnessed the exit of several stalwarts, for different reasons. But it is for the first time in recent past that a veteran leader of Azad's stature, at the time of parting ways with the party, has used such scathing and sharp language against the de facto boss of the party, Rahul Gandhi.
Azad, a Congressman for over half a century, in an acerbic missive to Sonia Gandhi said, "unfortunately, after the entry of Shri Rahul Gandhi into politics and particularly after January, 2013, when he was appointed as Vice President by you, the entire consultative mechanism that existed earlier was demolished by him. All senior and experienced leaders were sidelined, and a new coterie of inexperienced sycophants started running the affairs of the party."
Analysing Rahul's style of functioning, Azad commented, "Worse still, the remote control model that demolished the institutional integrity of the UPA government now gets applied to the Indian National Congress. While you are just a nominal figurehead, all the important decisions were being taken by Shri Rahul Gandhi or rather worse his security guard's and PAs."
What Tewari and Azad have said is truth, but not the complete truth. Of course it's a fact that there is a 'crack between India and Congress' (as Tewari has put). Azad too is right in his assertion that "puppets on a string" and "non-serious individuals" have been 'foisted' at the helm of the party, leading to its gradual decimation. However, the truth is far deeper than this.
The decline of Congress didn't start with either Sonia or Rahul, it began much earlier. The story of 'crack' between India and GOP is about half-a century old, and goes back to an era when a beleaguered Indira Gandhi, fighting an internecine war within the party in 1970, leaned over communists for support and allowed the Trojan horses of the Left to infiltrate the party and control levers of power in the system and creed and tenets of Congress with ease.
The party, honed in the middle-of-road approach and nationalist traditions of Mahatama Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Jawahar Lal Nehru, was soon something of the yore. From 1971, Indira Congress started borrowing heavily from the working style, political vocabulary and lexicon of the left. Entire decision-making process (in the party and Government) was centralised in the person of Indira Gandhi and her coterie -- a pattern common to all the Communist regimes the world over.
A witch hunt was launched to identify 'class enemies'. The Constitutional framework was reduced to a façade and the organs of the state became sub-servient to the 'Family' - represented by Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son of Indira Gandhi, who died young in an air-crash. Indira's elder son Rajiv replaced Sanjay in the power structure. The dynasty stranglehold on the party remained intact. The decline of Congress has since continued unabated till date.
The economic model, followed by Indira, was a queer mix of Fabian socialism and crony capitalism. It was a complete economic mess, with citizens waiting in serpentine lines to get basics of life. Shortages of essential commodities and their black-marketing became the norm. A beleaguered Indira promulgated emergency in the country to quell the public discontent. To explain her utter failure on all fronts, Indira needed a whipping boy. RSS, an organisation known for its discipline and patriotism, and which was invited to participate in the 1963 Republic Day parade by Pandit Nehru, was banned, its cadres victimised and jailed.
Since then the GOP has outsourced its ideological moorings to the Left and has no independent vision for the country. Its current leadership frequently mouths shibboleth, replete with discarded leftist rhetoric, totally out of sync with the new aspirational India. Using Adani, Ambani names as slurs to discredit PM Modi just doesn't work any longer. India has outgrown this rich versus poor narrative.
Most of the people dismiss these rants by Rahul Gandhi or his sidekicks, with contempt. The electorate finds Rahul and his antics and statements either non-serious, amusing or even irritating. No wonder his leadership is devoid of charisma, fails to inspire any faith among common citizens. He is seen as a minor nuisance, an epitome of entitlement -- a trait considered as bane of public life by most of enlightened Indians.
From September 7 onwards, Congress has decided to begin its "Bharat Jodo Yatra" along with civil society organisations. Rahul Gandhi - the supreme leader of the party - who is slated to lead the yatra - was one of the principal supporters of the infamous 'tukde-tukde' gang of Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU), led by Kanhaiya Kumar. The university campus was a scene of an ugly protest in 2016 in which leftist students of various hues, held a demonstration shouting slogans, 'Bharat tere tukde honge - Insha Allah, Insha Allah" in the wake of hanging of Afzal Guru and other terrorists.
Look at the irony: Rahul stands by those whose declared motto is to break the country and also decides to lead a march for India's unification. This huge contradiction between his words and deeds merely underlines the confusion in his personality. None knows where and what he stands for. Inviting so called civil society groups to join the Yatra, is in fact an admission of his intellectual bankruptcy. Political parties and Civil society groups and NGOs have clearly demarcated spaces in national public life. For want of necessary skills, intellectual paradigm and meaningful political initiative, Rahul has been running Congress more as an irresponsible NGO, than a structured and serious political outfit.
The only thing about which Rahul and rest of his clan appear to be certain is their blind opposition and hate against PM Narendra Modi and BJP -- which frequently transcends into hostility against India. Not surprisingly, most of the times, Congress, Pakistan and China are on the same page. A disconnect between India and Congress is the obvious outcome.
On rest of the issues, the party is usually confused. Its unhinged 'secularism' oscillates between public display of soft Hindutva (pre-poll temple hopping) and working with 'tukde tukde' gang. The party occasionally swears by Hinduism. But its cadres don't hesitate to slaughter a cow calf publicly to prove the party's 'secular' credentials.
While established leaders like Azad, Amarinder Singh, Jyotiradha Scindia are quitting the party in droves, the profile of ones joining at Rahul's initiative underlines the changing character of the GOP. Kanhaiya Kumar, a recent addition to the party, has migrated from Communist Party of India (CPI). The CPI during the Quit India Movement, collaborated with the colonial rulers and spied against freedom fighters. Subsequently, CPI joined hands with Muslim League and British imperialists, and worked for creation of Pakistan.
Can the Congress revive? The party is now committed to electing a new President after a gap of 21 years. And Gandhis have reportedly said they would not contest. It all looks fine on paper. But will there be free and fair elections in Congress? Will the new President be allowed to run the party as per his vision -- without any interference from Gandhis or their proxies and remotes? None has the answers, except the Gandhis.
Following the virtual meeting of the Congress working Committee (CWC) on Sunday, chorus is on by the 'faithfuls' for Rahul to take over as party President. Primordial loyalties are on full display and the current upheaval in the bedraggled party may come to a naught. All you know, the entire exercise may end up in a pedigreed succession again! For Congress, the more things change, the more they stay the same!
(Mr. Balbir Punj is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist. He can be reached at: email@example.com)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.