The fortunes of the Indian National Congress under the ‘leadership’ of Sonia and Rahul are fast dwindling. Despite the fact that it is the largest party in opposition, it has ceased to be a party of any significance. In the present times being a Congressman or a Congress supporter is like being a member of one of the elite clubs set up during the British Raj days that give members an identity but neither enhance their status nor give them access to any significant facilities. It has become almost redundant in Indian politics and it is difficult to figure out whether it is in this state because of its own weaknesses or the aggressive positioning of the BJP and its allies or a combination of both.
Sonia, supported by Rahul, is – quite shamelessly – leveraging her Nehru-Indira legacy for holding the reins of the party. Any other person positioned in her place, but with some objective insight and sensitivity, would have given up her job and tried to find some other hobby or vocation to keep herself occupied. There is no reason for Sonia to not step aside and ask her son to, also, do the same. At the same time, the Congress leaders need to stop believing and showcasing that it is only the representatives of their ‘first family’ that can lead the party. It is difficult to believe that all those educated, bright and articulate Congress leaders who are seen all over the social circuits and media must be actually looking up to Sonia and Rahul as people who can guide the party through its journey back to power.
Sonia and Rahul take cover under the shadows of Nehru and Indira (and Rajiv as well, intermittantly) to consolidate their position in the party and the Congressmen encourage them to do that because these names are their biggest brands and keeps their hopes alive for a resurgence and the flock together. Congressmen think their party would cease to exist if it did not have a member from the family steering it and Sonia and Rahul have assumed that they have some kind of a divine right over the legacy of Nehru and Indira. They seem to be the self appointed brand ambassadors of this colossal, but dormant, political brand. The feeling amongst most of the leaders in the Congress must be that “let’s use them to retain the party and be hopeful of getting back to power”, and the mother-son duo must be wondering between themselves as to “what is that the two of us have that so many people look up to us with expectation”.
Modi has emerged as a great leader and projected as some kind of a messiah for “his 125 crore Indian brothers and sisters” but the fact remains that he is just about as good or bad as anyone else who has, in the past become the PM of the country or has nurtured that ambition (and there have been a lot of them). The huge political advantage that he has is that he is all the time compared to Rahul and that is a rather unfair comparison. After he successfully pushed his in-party competitors into some inconsequential advisory role, he has ceased to have any competition from within the party or opposition. In the political ring that has been created we witness an unfair fight between the ‘heavyweight’ Modi and the ‘featherweight’ Rahul. Modi’s success can largely be attributed to Rahul’s absolute incompetence and his party’s unpardonable conduct in keeping him under constant arc-light. Modi, despite all his in-party maneuvering and polarized politics, would not have evolved as what he has if Congress had not projected Rahul as a challenger to Modi. Anyone else from the party with some credibility and political wisdom – and there are many in the party – would have arrested the emergence of the Modi phenomenon to some, if not a significant, extent. A person who has not held a press conference after becoming the Prime Minister or who was seen, on being asked some embarrassing questions, walking out of a TV interview a few years back cannot be as strong and invincible as he is projected to be. He is, no doubt, stronger than his competitor but that hardly means anything.
Despite a complete black out on Nehru and Indira by the Government and the party in power, people who have lived through the Nehruvian era and the Congress regime that followed and, also, those who want to look at issues objectively and not get swayed away by social media propaganda let lose by politicians from the ruling party, consider him as the architect of modern India. Just as the mandate given to the present party in power needs to be respected, the mandate of the people who elected Nehru and Indira over and over again, also, needs to be respected. Even if we were to, for a moment, accept what the massive and malicious propaganda that has been unleashed by the over-enthusiastic, illiterate and ruthless party workers and supporters, is there a good reason for the State to run down or show complete indifference to the first Prime Minister of Independent India.
This well thought strategy of maligning and ignoring Nehru and Indira primarily stems from the fact that people know that Nehru, even after more than five decades of his death, is a brand that can be exploited by the Congress. And, ironically Congress is not able to do that because the party leaders are busy defending and projecting Sonia-Rahul rather than leveraging the political legacy on Nehru-Indira. Congressmen need to realize that it makes more political sense to exploit the achievements of Nehru-Indira than the intentions of Sonia-Rahul.
There is a lot for the Congress to learn from the corporate India. Tata is, probably, the biggest brand in the country and has a recall with almost every Indian who can even hardly speak. Interestingly, Tata Sons – which is the holding company of Tata Group – does not have a single person from the extended Tata family on the board. Just as nurturing brand Tata is more important than having people on the board to manage the Tata Enterprise, Nehru and Indira are huge brands of the Indian National Congress and it is not at necessary that Sonia and Rahul – because of their having inherited their name – have to be presiding over the ‘enterprise’ that is supposed to be the owners of these brands despite their obvious inability to do so. They need to derive satisfaction from the fact that they belong to the family that has given the country three Prime Ministers and step aside for the leadership to resurrect the party rather than holding on to the reins till the ‘horse is dead’.
The party needs to strategize to re-position Nehru and Indira to the forefront of their political discourse and, in fact, consider renaming their party as Nehru-Indira Indian National Congress. The fact that BJP as a party and a party in power has to tactically ignore Nehru only speaks how threatened it is of the ‘Nehru-Indira’ brand and it is time that INC leadership and cadres realized this and worked out strategies for generating political ‘equity’ out of this iconic political brand.
CARTOON IN WORDS
1. Gen. GD Bakshi, Rakesh Sinha, Ratan Sharda, and MR Venkatesh sleeping on bunker beds in the Republic TV Studio. A young executive from the channels pulling the sheets covering them and saying: wake up and get ready for the show and don’t forget to gargle – we noticed that you were not shouting loud enough yesterday.
2. Sonia and Rahul sitting in their drawing room and Rahul to his mother: Now that Ahmed Patel has won the Rajya Sabha election, can I take a holiday to Europe. I want to wear something nice – am tired of wearing Khadi.