by K.S. Tomar
History does repeat itself, and India’s Grand Old Party is facing an uncertain present and future as it may head towards a split. Especially if its leadership crisis is not solved quickly. Time is running out for it to revive itself, if at all.
Stinging defeats in the recently concluded assembly elections — elimination of Congress in West Bengal and its failure to win in Kerala and Assam– for the Gandhi siblings Rahul and Priyanka have weakened the control of the dynastic family over the party organization.
History tells us the valiant fight Mrs Indira Gandhi, nicknamed as “Gungi Gudiya” then, put up against the powerful Syndicate in the late 60s. She broke away and formed what she called the real Congress in 1969 and continued to dominate Indian politics till 1984, with a few breaks in between. Sonia Gandhi took over the party reluctantly and revived it to an extent to enable it to rule for 10 years till 2014.
Rahul Gandhi faces a bigger challenge to rejuvenate the party which is at its lowest ebb and facing a challenge from a cohort of party leaders, who eventually may not dare to force a split. But if the party does split, the BJP will celebrate in glee – one more step closer to Congress mukt India.
Indications are Rahul is poised to take over the party next month. He is already functioning as the de facto President owing to his mother’s illness. His proactiveness in highlighting the failures of the Modi government, statements on Chinese incursions, and Rafale deal disclosures in French media have endeared him to the Congress rank and file.
Rahul Gandhi was the only leader who consistently warned the Modi government about Covid 19 and the danger it posed to the nation and how public health and economy could be ravaged. But the Congress defeats in Assam and Kerala will bear down on his leadership prospects in the faction ridden party.
Rahul Gandhi’s stand is that if workers wanted, he was ready to play any role. This indicates his willingness to take on the mantle of leadership again. Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who helped Mamata Banerjee and MK Stalin to win West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, doubts the prospects of a coalition at the national level of opposition parties. But he insists there is a dire need of hegemony of a pan-India party (obviously hinting at Congress) weaving other parties around it to
to challenge the strong and popular leader, Narendra Modi, and his election winning machinery and RSS. He discards regional leaders trying to unite opposition parties, given their inflated egos and differences.
But Congress needs to get its act together and frame a strategy to handle states. At the same time, the Rahul-Priyanka duo must take on the Modi government aggressively, in all polls to be held next year. Rahul Gandhi is the only leader in Congress who can take on the mighty Modi, especially so after other Congress leaders have gone into silent mode. On leadership question, one option is to bring forward a non-Gandhi party president like Rajasthan chief minister, Ashok Gehlot who enjoys blessings and patronage of the Gandhis, besides hailing from OBC background. But in view of the strong BJP leadership and a party having vast resources and the well-oiled machinery of RSS, a young and energetic leader like Rahul Gandhi may fit in the shoes of Sonia Gandhi and the change may take place in June.
The writer is national columnist and political analyst based in Delhi.