Indian National Congress – At the Crossroads

The Indian National Congress has lost the capability of even imagining that it can, on its own, offer any resistance to the growing popularity and political penetration of BJP under the leadership of Modi.  It has ceased to function as a political party.  It is more like the defunct family owned company that is in existence for more than a century and is just about struggling with some outdated equipment and inefficient processes to manufacture products that hardly anyone seems to be interested in and is managed by some fossilized employees who have no clue of what the customers want and is steered by the great grandson of the founder who has inherited the enterprise and doesn’t know what to do with it. His interests and capabilities are just not aligned and adequate to transform the enterprise to cater to the present day consumer requirements.  There are a number of such business houses and CEOs in the country. These companies, their brands and promoters fade away with time and are of interest to only some business historians and management students.


No one can deny the fact that within the Congress Party, in the present times, it is only Sonia and her two children who have some charismatic influence on voters at the pan-India level.  Other leaders either have regional political presence or have not ventured beyond animated arm-chair discussions.  Despite the fact that the party has some politically ambitious people who are intellectually strong but they have not, on their own gumption or because of some compulsions and intra-party manipulations, hit the streets to engage with people.  It is an irony that the oldest political party in the country which has played a monumental role in India’s evolution as a largest functioning democracy should be managed like a family enterprise with all the powers wrested within the family that just doesn’t seem to wake up from the intoxicated slumber, leave alone running with the political baton that was passed on to them for being the clear winner.


In this lethargic and mal-managed environment within the party, it is not unusual to expect some young leaders to show courage and conviction to challenge the status quo and, also, be marginalized or to be shown the door for doing so..  There is no denying that the two young leaders who rebelled in the recent past are not only competent but, extremely ambitious as well. There is, also, no doubt that both of them had an enviable career within the party and what the senior Congress leaders said about their progression and their getting too ambitious has some merit.  But, what is baffling that none of these loyal senior leaders of the Congress ever challenged the ever increasing and unchallenged stature of Rahul or the sudden emergence and projection of Priyanka.  Why did these people not react when Sonia and Priyanka went to Rahul’s Tughlak Lane house to discuss who the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and MP should be.  If the fate of the savvy and hard working grass-root level politicians like Scindia and Pilot, who brought electoral victory for the party in their states, were to be decided by Priyanka – a wild-card entrant into politics – there is reason for them to work towards finding a feasible exit route.  The frustration is obvious from the fact that Scindia, who is bright and articulate and was seemingly close to Rahul, decided to join a party that he spoke vehemently against in Parliament and outside is now seen speaking against the party that he owes his political career to and is doing that with spite and in the most theatrical manner.  There is reason to carry out some ‘Aatmachintan’ within the Congress party to start looking out for ways and means of finding the time and working out a strategy to take on their opponents rather than just about managing dissent within the party.


In family business enterprises, it is a matter of right for the young son or daughter of the promoter to occupy the corner office – whenever the family so decides.  But the head of the family, invariably, ensures that the incumbent gets good education and undergoes some operational level training in various departments of the enterprise before he/she takes over the reins and starts bossing over people.  The first family of the Congress thinks that it is their divine right to be managing the party and anyone from the family can come in and find a place on the high table and start taking major policy decisions for the party. And, ironically, the senior Congressmen either believe that it actually is the divine right of everyone from the Nehru/Gandhi family to be heading the party – officially or otherwise – or they are desperately trying to leverage the fading legacy of the family to be relevant in electoral space.  Politics, in the present day context, is all about charisma and perception creation and, regrettably, despite not having the basic qualities of a politician or the intellectual abilities to reflect on any issue at even the fundamental level, Rahul, for the lazy breed of the leftover Congressmen, has the charisma that can be leveraged to find themselves some seats in Parliament. Sonia, Rahul and Pryanka, for all we know, are being used as brand ambassadors by these seasoned, wily and politically irrelevant Congressmen to buy themselves an opportunity to find a place around the political ringside.


If Congress has to survive and remain relevant – at whatever level – its members need to restore their individuality, start believing in themselves, shun sycophancy, elect members to the CWC, promote and encourage the young who can work at the grass root levels, create a operational bottom-up organization, encourage internal debate and dissent, and manage the media and publicity a little better – no sane communication expert should allow pictures of the veteran 92 year old hunch-backed Motilal Vora walking behind Rahul Gandhi like his man Friday being shown in press and electronic media.


Scindia and Pilot have shown the way for people within the party.  If Rahul and Priyanka could decide the political fate of leaders like Scindia and Pilot, there was reason for them to get jittery about their future in the party.  Neither of them would have found it interesting and encouraging to imagine walking – a la Motilal Vora – behind Raihan Vadra in the years to come.  If the exit of young leaders like Scindia and Pilot is not an eye opener for the first family, its time that the intellectuals and literati within the party sat together to write the history of the Congress – from the days when AO Hume wanted more representation of educated Indians in the Government to the time when educated young people within the party were sidelined and alienated – for archival value.


Congress is as non-performing and as uninteresting as Air India and Rahul as its mascot is as irrelevant as the Maharaja of Air India.  Air India might find a buyer but Congress would have to pull down its shutters or be relegated to an insignificant position someday, sooner or later, because it would be a group of leaders who would have no one to lead. The Maharaja of the Congress needs to deplane along with the members of his family and walk into political oblivion and give people the reason to remember them as a family that saved the Congress by disassociating themselves from it.


Alternatively, Congressmen should wean away from the Nehru/Gandhi family and rework their identity in the backdrop of the enviable 135 year old history of the institution that they are a part of and create an alternative, even if not in the immediate future, to the mammoth and seemingly invincible BJP.





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