By Juby John
Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
“It is not important what Rahul Gandhi thinks, it’s important what a billion Indians think.” – Rahul Gandhi
With the historical defeat in the Lok Sabha elections 2014 and losing power in Maharashtra and Haryana, what a billion Indians think has been unclouded. The 128 year old Congress party that has led India for majority of its 67 years of Independence, displayed its worst ever electoral performance, thus, posing serious questions about the leadership of the ‘Gandhis’, a prominent Indian political dynasty.
Dominance of Congress Party continued after independence in 1947. Erudite Jawaharlal Nehru was appointed as the first Prime Minister of India by Lord Mountbatten after the first general elections, despite the fact that Mahatma Gandhi wanted to disband Congress to embark democracy in its real sense. Thereafter, we saw the rise of Nehru’s powerful daughter ‘Indira Gandhi’ soon after he died in 1964. While Indira Gandhi was in governance, the young active Gandhi in politics ‘Sanjay’ died in an unfortunate plane accident. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, the other reluctant Gandhi ‘Rajiv’ joined politics and became PM on the sympathy wave, tragically also getting assassinated in 1991. By then, the hiatus of Nehru-Gandhi brand was felt by the Congress and they wanted Rajiv’s widow, Sonia, to lead the party as their next president. Another event that marked the continuance of this Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was the entrance of Rahul in the political space, and his rise as the Vice-President of the party in no time. People like me wonder, whether our nation was truly founded on promises of democracy or was it just another monarchy attempting to camouflage itself.
With the philosophy of ‘good times are ahead’, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi made history. His campaign of ‘Congress mukt Bharat’ hit the Congress Party hard. The descendants of Jawaharlal Nehru and his strong-willed daughter, Indira Gandhi, seem to have failed to govern the fast-changing India. The once-revered family name reeks of a stale dynasty due to polarization, corruption, scandals and economic calamities. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s perception as a weak leader was also pivotal in destroying congress. Congress party was thumped out of power, winning a paltry 44 of 543 parliamentary seats.
So, is this the end of the road for Congress? After the controversial UPA I and UPA II tarnished with corruption cases and people finding a brilliant substitute in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this fall was very well anticipated by almost every political critic. The excessive revolt by Arvind Kejriwal, who seemed more promising than Rahul Gandhi, also affected the Congress negatively. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi in a press conference took the responsibility for this humiliating defeat and talked about partaking in some mandatory introspection. There have been rumours of a minor revolt inside the party with leaders criticising Rahul’s advisors and demanding his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to take the charge. The Gandhi surname, which has always enticed the masses and has developed a profound connect with them, has now been turned into an object of ridicule. Finding a new way out will definitely be difficult for the Congress, but history suggests that Congress has persisted through many a life threat in the past and always came back strong. So, of course, it can bounce back.
The first required step by the Congress is to undertake the careful analysis of these election results, and fin out the reasons behind this stinging slap. Moreover, holding internal elections to choose new office bearers in order to promote intra party democracy is also advisable. Rahul Gandhi, heir of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, can in fact become the biggest strength of the party. Priyanka Gandhi should be given more space than just Raebarelli and Amethi. Young stalwart leaders like Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora should be groomed up. Congress once again needs to become people’s own party by bonding with masses at the grass root level. Above all, strong resistance to corruption will play the key role. At last, need of the hour for Congress is to behave as a responsible opposition, contribute to good decisions and criticise wrong ones.
The collapse of the Congress is in fact not good for India, since a country always needs a second national party competent enough to admonish the governing one. Surely, there is a long way to go for our grand old party to make a winning comeback.