During the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress, gave the party momentum by breaking its template of conducting Twitter politics. The long march gave new light and hope to thousands of Congress party leaders and cadres who tirelessly work for the party every day. However, the Congress has misplaced priorities. Today, the entire party in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, outside of Parliament, and everywhere else is defending Rahul Gandhi for his alleged “anti-India” statements made in the United Kingdom. It is not a matter of taking on the position of judge or jury, but rather for the Congress to recognise the severity of the damage that Gandhi’s statements cause to the party.
Congress’ performance in elections has been bad, and the general elections of 2024 are near. Now is a crucial time for the party to use the momentum of the Bharat Jodo Yatra to strengthen its organisations in preparation for the important Assembly elections of 2023. These elections will lay the foundation for the general election. However, it looks like the current priority of Congress is protecting the Gandhi family. If such politics continues, then it will have a devastating and negative effect on the grand old party.
Elections in the states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan will take place this year. These will be crucial for the Congress because the party lost power in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh after forming the governments in both states. In Rajasthan, the Congress party holds power. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal have already started holding rallies and campaigns in Karnataka, while the Congress is in the middle of a cold war between DK Shivakumar and former Chief Minister Siddharamaiah.
After Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is still unclear who controls the Madhya Pradesh Congress between Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh. The news articles and sources confirm that the organisation of the grand old party is in poor shape. The party has never been able to present a united front in the state of Rajasthan, despite the fact that the BJP engages in its internal conflict. Months after the formation of the government in Rajasthan under the leadership of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, senior leader Sachin Pilot became a rebel inside the Congress.
The feud between Gehlot and Pilot has been the leading topic of discussion in the state. Congress’ preparedness is yet to make a significant noise which indicates that the party has not yet made these elections its top priority.
Recent elections in the Northeastern states did not go particularly well for the Congress. The top leadership of the party did not even campaign in Tripura. In Meghalaya, the party only held a few large rallies. In contrast, the BJP, despite not having a great organisation in Meghalaya and Nagaland, held several rallies led by top leaders, including PM Modi. One of the most important lessons from these defeats is that the party has repeatedly failed to maintain house unity. Its leaders have either joined the BJP or other parties such as the Trinamool Congress (TMC). As opposed to defending Rahul Gandhi, these should be the real issues before Congress.
The Congress is the only political party in India where the president is more concerned with protecting a leader than strengthening the organisation. After the election of Mallikarjun Kharge as the Congress president, which was applauded by many as he became the first non-Gandhi president in over 25 years, not much has changed; every week, a senior Congress leader leaves the party due to disagreements or other reasons. No one has witnessed Kharge attempting to quell the discontent of these leaders or pursuing a solution.
How can the Congress fix its organisational problem if everyone in the party continues to protect the Gandhi family? In a number of states, the Congress’ organisational strength has reached a low point. Political parties such as AAP, the TMC, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), and other regional parties have been taking votes away from the Congress party. The party is unable to run its own house in the states where the fight is primarily between the BJP and the Congress. No one has ever seen the party go above and beyond its pretentiousness to settle disputes in the recent past, whether it was under the Gandhis or Kharge.
At the most, Congress sends some top leaders to douse discontent, who instead of tackling the issue, create more chaos, and then the party loses. The best example of this situation is the loss of Congress in Punjab.
The main problem, today, should be whether the party should continue to focus on such individualised politics or fight for the actual concerns of democracy. There is no denying that every democracy has its own problems and limitations. Talking about those limitations is an important responsibility of the Opposition political parties. But in this instance, the issue is that Rahul Gandhi should have been more careful speaking about India because when a person speaks about his or her own nation, the terminology employed should not be the same as that of a political rally.
Gandhi’s words should have been far more nuanced or should have been viewed as his own statements. Congress had the chance to take such a position, but they chose to stay busy within this slugfest. The party’s politics can’t move past the Gandhi family because they are stuck in a rut of ignorance and inaction. Leaders shouldn’t prioritise worshipping the Gandhis since doing so just reveals their sycophancy. Every single supporter of Congress should be aware of and agree with the fact that Gandhis cannot bring votes to aid the party in winning elections.
There is not a single example in the past several years where the Gandhis have led the elections and brought victory. It’s sad to see that the grand old party is still waiting for one person to grow up and become a mature politician, even though they have lost elections over and over again. Only a dynast may have such a privilege. Congress’ current dynastic and individualistic politics has brought the party to its knees.
After the success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, it was time for the Congress to work with the other Opposition parties to form a coalition that voters could believe in. In a democracy, it is up to the parties in the Opposition to put on a credible show of opposition. Constant personal attacks on Prime Minister Modi and harsh criticisms of Indian democracy from foreign soil won’t help the Congress in any way. Neither will it increase the party’s odds of winning elections nor boost its standing in parliamentary democracy. This is why the fault lines of Rahul Gandhi today are harming the hopes of the Congress.
The author is a Columnist and Doctoral Research Scholar In Media & Politics. He tweets @sayantan_gh. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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