By Ashima Makhija
The chief opposition party of India, the Indian National Congress (INC) seems to be collapsing under the burden of Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. The crucial Gujarat Assembly elections are approaching, new cracks and crevices are appearing in the Bihar unit, and the mahagathbandhan is crumbling into a fancy and impossible dream. In spite of which the INC Vice President, Rahul Gandhi seems to be curiously keen on “expanding his thoughts about artificial intelligence”.
After a four-day trip to Norway, the inheritor of the Congress party has announced his two-week trip to the United States of America. Congress is facing the challenge of mass defections. Its governments are disintegrating and its politicians are becoming scattered wanderers, who profess no clear ideology or agenda. However, Gandhi prefers to devote his attention to foreign assignments while his party seemingly implodes in India.
Quite clearly, Congress is heading nowhere since its Vice-President is headed everywhere.
Recently, the Indian Express reported in ‘Delhi Confidential’ that opposition parties, particularly the RJD, were not happy about Rahul Gandhi skipping the mega opposition rally in Patna. This rally was touted to be the show of opposition unity in the run up to 2019 elections. Rahul Gandhi had flouted the initiation meeting of the opposition camp to take a trip to Norway to have discussions with the leaders of biotechnology.
Now in less than two weeks, Press Trust of India (PTI) has reported that the Congress vice-president is all set to explore his knowledge of Artificial Intelligence in Silicon Valley – at a time when the party needs his presence for Gujarat Assembly elections.
An opposition of a mere reactionary narrative
Several opportunities have surfaced since BJP democratically took over India. However, Congress has been unsuccessful in capitalising on any of them. Let’s consider the political fiascos of the BJP Haryana government. Chief Minister M L Khattar, an RSS nominated pracharak, has mishandled several crises so far in his tenure. The latest one was the violence that tore through his state after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of rape on Friday. The Punjab and Haryana High Court accused Khattar of letting “Panchkula burn for political gain”. Last year, his awful handling of the Jat quota stir left Haryana burning for several days and resulted in the deaths of nearly 30 people.
So far, Congress has not been able to target the BJP government for its lack of administrative prowess. Renounced journalist Swati Chaturvedi reported that Deependar Hooda, an MP from Rohtak and son of former Haryana CM B S Hooda, feels that Congress’ failures can be attributed to the dearth of leadership in the party and that Rahul Gandhi’s strategies are not working for any state.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who recently jumped out of Congress’ sinking ship, spoke unapprovingly of the Congress’ poor role as leader of the opposition and its inability to stitch together anything but a “reactionary narrative“. Rahul Gandhi has failed to devise a clearly defined ideology, identity, strategy or agenda for the INC. He simply counters the BJP with repeated policies and mundane policy decisions.
Is the ‘hand’ nurturing the ‘lotus’?
The ascent of BJP has not simply been fuelled by the charismatic Shah-Modi duo. Another accelerator has been the rapid descent of the Congress Party. While Congress has pretensions of being the only national opposition party, the reality is that it is a greatly shrunken version of a once-robust party. In Gujarat, the BJP has already initiated its electoral campaign. However, Congress, which has already suffered the shock of Vaghela’s resignation, is now unable to consolidate an alliance with Hardik Patel, the Patidar leader. There has been no clear announcement on who will lead the Congress campaign in Madhya Pradesh, which is also headed towards polls.
The leadership of Rahul Gandhi has reduced his character and that of Congress to a string of Twitter memes and jokes. Opposition in our country has frozen to watch the completion of the majoritarian project of BJP. Opposition plays a crucial role in preserving the democratic status of any country. As BJP is unfurling its flag across state boundaries, it is time for the opposition to wake up from its slumber, make hard choices about its leadership and protect the constitutional identity of India.
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