The miserable plight of the Congress is a matter of great agony for anyone who believes in democracy and secularism because a strong opposition is a very essential element of democracy, without which any government could be rendered autocratic. Being a firm believer in democracy I have continually written in these columns that it is both the need of the hour and essential for the good of the nation that the Congress emerges as a strong force in the country.
For over a year now, the party has not had a president. Despite it being more than a year since the 2019 electoral defeat, there has been no discussion on the way forward in the party. The frustration of the younger leaders is leading them towards disillusionment with the party. Jyotiraditya Scindia has quit the party. Sachin Pilot has already exhibited a rebellious streak. Ashok Chavan, Sandip Dixit, Milind Deora, Jitin Prasad and other younger leaders like them should already have been on the next rung of leadership but are being steadily ignored. Can the party not understand that a generational change in leadership does not happen overnight, it takes decades to hone such a leadership!
Why is that the very Congress which used to be the heartbeat of the nation is out of power in so many states? It has been out of the reckoning in Uttar Pradesh for 31 years, in West Bengal for 43 years, in Tamil Nadu for 53 years, in Bihar for 30 years, in Odisha for 20 years and in Gujarat for 25 years. Even Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh considered as Congress bastions have been steadily slipping out of its hands. The Congress did return to power in Madhya Pradesh after 15 long years but could not retain the state for even 15 months due to internal strife. This happened because of the immature dealings of the partymen. The question is why have elections to the Congress Working Committee not been held in 23 years? How and why did the party which won 206 seats in the Lok Sabha as late as in 2009, get confined to merely 44 and 52 seats in 2014 and 2019 respectively?
An analysis will show that between 2004 and 2009, Dr Manmohan Singh ran an exemplary government. It was during his term that people got access to some excellent schemes like employment guarantee, right to education, food security and right to information. People were happy with the Congress but during its second term between 2009 and 2014, the government began to reverberate with the echo of scams. Commonwealth Games, 2G, coal, Adarsh society, railways and other scams came to the fore. Congress compelled many Union ministers, chief ministers and other ministers to resign for them. They are themselves responsible for creating the impression that the government is not just corrupt but also ineffective, but the truth is that the Congress could never present the correct picture of facts to the Parliament and among the people. While Sonia Gandhi was being kept in the dark during all this, Dr Singh was being deliberately crucified by people in the top echelons of the party. In fact, one top BJP functionary had even told me at the time that he was baffled and astonished by the way the Congress was behaving. It is our job to raise issues and oppose but why is the Congress going on the backfoot, he had asked.
So far as Soniaji is concerned, at her level she gave her best to the Congress. It is under her leadership that the party came to power not just once but twice in a row. She led from the front and it is her policies that had voted the party back to power a second time. In 2004, the UPA had proposed that she take up the job of prime minister but she sacrificed that office and set an example before power hungry people but Congressmen despoiled even that sacrifice in the interest of their petty agendas. These very same conspirators in the party revelled in the attack on Rahul Gandhi by the BJP which was attempting to trip him up politically. Actually the BJP was afraid that Rahul Gandhi’s success would be detrimental to its own interests, that is why they attempted to establish him as an ineffective and incompetent leader. On the other hand, Rahul was surrounded by a bevy of youthful Congressmen who might have been able to speak fluent English but were completely disconnected with grassroots realities. BJP successfully painted Rahul as a leader capable of only tweeting on social media. Rahul Gandhi is young and should have been able to attract the youth but that initiative too was seized instead by Narendra Modi. When Manmohan Singh found himself harassed by obstructions from some party leaders, he suggested that Rahul Gandhi be made prime minister but the latter turned down that suggestion. Later, he even turned down the opportunity to be the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. As a result, he lost the opportunity to display his leadership skills in full measure.
It will not be misplaced to say that the Trojan horses within the Congress have always succeeded in confusing the party high command. Those very leaders who never had even an iota of a notion of the grassroots reality were the ones who became the generals of the party. This is the very reason why many past chief ministers, ministers, MPs or legislators quit the Congress and joined either the BJP or other regional parties. Today, apart from the Congress even its frontal organisations like Mahila Congress, youth Congress, NSUI, Seva Dal and INTUC have become impotent and ineffective. Their leaders are not rooted to the ground. They just want power. Even Mrs Indira Gandhi’s centenary came and went without a single reminiscence. Moreover, when an MP from Uttar Pradesh attempted to character-assassinate Rajiv Gandhi in the Rajya Sabha, it was Jaya Bachchan who rose to the latter’s defence, while other Congress leaders remained mute spectators. Quite contrary to this, the RSS and BJP has strengthened all its frontal organisations quite potently. They have left no stone unturned to popularise Narendra Modi and all their other ideological gurus all over the world.
While they are well within their rights to do that, the question is why the Congress is not doing the same. It is my assessment that because no one speaks the truth at home everyone remains astray. Everyone lives in a dream bubble. The Congress did not even have an inkling of when the BJP captured India. But it is still not too late. Moreover, better late than never! It is very necessary for Indian democracy that the Congress revive itself forthwith. To this end it is very necessary and imperative to elect a young leader and, along with him, a team that is rooted to the grassroots realities. Soniaji should continue to guide the party until she is able to do so. Without her the party simply has no choice today.
Vijay Darda has been the chief visionary and driving force behind Lokmat, a leading multi-platform media company. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Feroze Gandhi Memorial Award for excellence in journalism in 1990-91.
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