Loyalists have come crashing down on the dissenters’ in Congress
The Congress party’s pathetic performance in the Bihar elections and well the by-polls in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh have come and a booster shot for at least one section of the party. It is the so-called G-23, which comprises senior leaders who, some months ago, wrote to the high command seeking a revamp in the party’s functioning and more effective leadership. The G-23 ‘dissenters’ have become more vociferous now, but so have the ‘loyalists’ who have slammed the demand and questioned the former’s intent.
Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal have already spoken out, and so will the others in time to come. There is a little irony here. While Sibal in a television interview, spoke of what he believed as a collaboration between the government and the “oligarchs” to peddle a narrative and — with the help of the media, including social media — construct its acceptance among the masses, Azad spoke of a “five-star culture” which had led to the collapse of the party’s organization.
The Congress leader was on a “picnic” in Himachal Pradesh while the campaigning was in full swing in Bihar.
But both Sibal and Azad have been careful to not question the first family. Azad laid the blame at the doorsteps of Rahul Gandhi’s advisers, indicating that they had failed in their task of pointing out errors of the leadership and had conducted themselves as sycophants. Sibal, on the other hand, remarked that there was no leadership in the party because the leader himself said he did not want to lead.
Notwithstanding the nuanced stance, the loyalists have come crashing down on the ‘dissenters’. One of them said that the remarks have hurt and pained the committed workers of the Congress party, while another has commented that such statements ought to be made in internal party forums. A third has claimed that a party which is more than a 100-year old, knows best how to handle setbacks and that corrections would happen at the right time.
The crux of the crisis is the Congress party’s belief that the first family’s dominance is non-negotiable. Even if out of the president’s position, Rahul Gandhi has to remain the guiding light. The problem is: He failed as president and he continues to fail as a leader without being president. Barring a few wins which can be counted on one’s little finger, the party has fared badly in every election, national or state, since 2014. And yet, in the six years gone by, there has been no real attempt by the leadership to either restructure the organizational setup or provide a narrative that is not just different from that of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but also acceptable to the voters. If this is not a colossal failure of the Congress’s high command (Sonia Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi-Priyanka Vadra), then what is?
The situation is so grim that the party has lost most of the seats (in by-polls) that it had won only months ago in regular elections. And this has happened across the states. Instead of addressing the problem, Rahul Gandhi is busy charging at windmills, claiming that they are rampaging rivals of the Congress party. The party refuses to acknowledge that it dealt a severe blow to the grand alliance in Bihar by its below-par performance. Three years ago, it had undermined an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh with similarly poor performance. Its allies seem to have got wiser with the experience. Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has declared that the SP would not anymore ally with a big party but have understandings with smaller outfits. Shivanand Tiwari, a veteran leader of the RJD in Bihar, minced no words in slamming Rahul Gandhi. Referring to the 70 seats the Congress party contested in the state, he said the Congress leader did not address even 70 meetings. Worse, he added, the Congress leader was on a “picnic” in Himachal Pradesh while the campaigning was in full swing in Bihar.
Every time a major election is round the corner, we hear that it would be a ‘make or break’ event for Congress. But the party itself remains blissfully nonchalant. It continues to break, bit by bit. A slew of important state elections are scheduled for 2021, and the BJP has already hit the road. Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah and party President J P Nadda have already committed to making at least one trip a month to West Bengal in the run-up to the polls. Besides, Shah is already hyperactive in Tamil Nadu, exploring possibilities of alliances to make a mark in this southern state which has so far proved to be a hard nut to crack for the party. In contrast, Congress is still moving about in a disoriented fashion, with neither leadership nor cohesion. There is nothing to indicate that the process to elect a new president has been initiated. Nor has Rahul Gandhi shown any inclination to return to the post.
It appears that the Congress party is determined to continue on the path of self-destruction. Everything — the exit of senior leaders, the desperate voices of reason from within, the grim warning from allies, the repeated electoral defeats — is like water off a duck’s back.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.