he Congress party seems to be in a slumber. Just before the Corona related lockdown was announced, the Madhya Pradesh trouble erupted, which forced Kamal Nath to step down, paving way for the BJP to form its government with some Congress defectors. Recent weeks saw a similar scenario developing in Rajasthan, where Sachin Pilot put the party on notice to try and eject CM Ashok Gehlot and take over himself. As of now, Pilot seems to have failed but the future is unsure.
The interaction senior leaders had of late with the Congress high command about the way forward has seen a fresh bout of accusations and counter-accusations between the old guard and the youth, with those like Shashi Tharoor pitched somewhat in between. The old guard would not lie low, and that’s for sure, irrespective of whether or not Sonia Gandhi remains in or relinquishes the post of temporary chairperson of the party. They are agreeable to allow Rahul Gandhi take charge only on condition that they be allowed to retain their rightful place in the party.
It is no secret that the old guard allowed itself to be in a state of self-enforced paralysis during the last Lok Sabha polls, when the Congress party was swept under the carpet in the Hindi belt in particular. They watched as Rahul Gandhi ploughed a lone furrow. Perhaps he was inspired to bark up the wrong tree by the young leaders. Little wonder, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made mincemeat out of the Congress on the campaign front. It has to be admitted that Modi needs Rahul more than the Congress. Also, the inner battles within the Congress may not be a clear demarcation simply between the Old and the New. It is possible that the three Gandhis are now pitched against the rest of the Congress. The party cannot exist without them nor can it thrive with them.
Rahul Gandhi has been noticed to be waging a one man war against the Modi government. The Pappu of yesterday may be talking some sense now and the government also seems to have changed tack on certain issues after Rahul’s public utterances. Interestingly, no one from the Congress party seems to be supporting his various stands. Rahul might be aware that he cannot have his way as long as the old guard perched themselves at vantage points. Their support for Sonia Gandhi is open, and their opposition to Rahul is covert. While Sonia is out of hospital after a check-up and fit for now, yet neither age nor health puts her in a position to take the load of reviving the party that’s close to crumbling.
Sharad Pawar’s advice to Rahul Gandhi to tour the country to energize the party and the nation may have merit in it. The Bhoomipujan in Ayodhya on August 5 is aimed at helping the BJP retrieve its steadily losing ground before the next assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. On the other side, the Opposition is sitting back, virtually blinking; thanks mainly to the rudderless state of the Congress.
The Congress needs to look into itself. While the party has been on a slow but sure decline for more than 15 years now since UPA I, it has never bothered to introspect and figure out what has gone wrong where. Now is not the time for it to fight the BJP or Modi. It has to think out reasons due to which there is constant internal squabbling that is destroying its base. Without any visible chance of coming to power in most states or at the Centre, the Congress seems to have kept the Self-Destruct button pressed constantly. While Old and New need to realize that they have to reinvent the party from the grassroots, the Gandhis also must realize that they have lost their dynastic charm and have to settle with a system more democratic and tolerant that will enable them enjoy power by sharing it with those others who prove their mettle at this time of crisis.