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At the helm, can the Congress reinvent

by Rinku Khumukcham
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By: M.R. Lalu
A non-dynast at the helm of the Congress! Have the Gandhis been seriously thinking of moving the party into the hands of an outsider? Can the Congress reinvent itself with a non-dynast leading the party? This question seems to be genuinely relevant today as many of its loyalists began to feel the inefficiency of the dynasty to lead the party in the direction of reconstructing its political significance. With more regional parties and an aspirational team-Kejriwal eating into the vote bank of the Congress; the party has no reason to bank on a family that has totally failed to give it electoral victories for almost a decade. The leadership at the helm had a humiliating response from the erstwhile Gandhi family loyalists Anand Sharma and Gulam Nabi Azad who rebelled against it once again. Their public rebellion is sure to make the remaining G-23 members more belligerently mutinous.  The rebellious grouping had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi last year demanding an organisational revamp recommending elections for all the party posts which remained vacant. Their demand included the election of the Party President, who according to them should be a full time politician. The party’s humiliating defeat in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections with Priyanka Gandhi shot as its Brahmastra, a last resort, lost her chances to be nominated as the party President. This was the plan the Congress shelved as a future surprise in case Rahul Gandhi hesitated to take the reins.  As the party is haunted by continuous poll debacle in state and central elections, the trio from the Gandhi family seems to have realised the fading sheen of its names in the rank and file of Congress.
The biggest threat that the Congress needs to face is its experiment with a non-dynast for the top job of the party. Effect of the same would become visible with the course of time. The perception that is looming large is not only about the family’s weakening support within the party but also a fear that its absence would further crush the prospects of Congress. Whatever, the Congress is all set to go for an overhauling, probably not seriously hammering on the possible takeover by anybody from the Gandhi family. The rebellion of the veterans has undoubtedly weakened the party and the family. Despite rumours doing the rounds on Ashok Gehlot’s possible candidature as the next party president, his denial (if he does so) would stonewall his party’s ambitions of revival and give it a jerk of horror and uncertainty of hope as to who would rescue the second largest national party from its predicament. In this perception battle, what seems to be sinking deeper is a realization that anybody, for that matter, being elected as the party chief would struggle to give the lost glory of the party back. Amid severe confusion and ambiguity, the party cadre has no choice but to look up to the trio of the Gandhi family and wait for its response. The bleak fortune of the Congress party is thickening on a daily basis in a Modi dominated political scenario. With its arrogance and blind opposition to Modi, the Congress and its leadership had lost all battles that it probably forgot to learn lessons from. Mostly the party leadership chooses to shoot irresponsible and insensible rants on a government that takes every serious attempt to woo the people of the country. The Prime Minister is talented enough to emotionally grab the attention of the electorate. He knows how to capture not only minds but also to change the mood of the nation.
The lackadaisicalness of the Congress from venturing into a possible revamp of the party tearing off the tattered influence of the family is the main problem that the party is entangled in. Interestingly, the Congress could not override the image of being a corrupt party that the BJP and Modi could successfully march a narrative with. And the grand old party proved to be conceding to the narratives that the BJP intelligently set against it. The BJP and its smart leadership have been investing their time and intelligence to systematically highlight the Congress from the days of Nehru. Surprisingly, the Prime Minister voiced against corruption and nepotism from the ramparts of the Red Fort. The Congress could not even speculate Modi’s adventure though it termed his demeanour as “shameless stoop by the Prime Minister”. The BJP with Modi and Shah at the steering seat has managed to turn the tables against the Congress, engraving a narrative that the Congress is a minority supporter and anti-Hindu. This seems to have helped the BJP to garner great support from the fence-sitters in electoral politics who abundantly chose to vote for the saffron party. The tag that the BJP tied on the reputation of the Congress as a Muslim party did stay with it for long and the gimmicks that its young dynast had to plunge into by proclaiming his Brahmin identity was a proof of its confusion. The temples that he knelt down and the vermillion on his forehead could not change the perception that the saffron brigade could successfully build against the Gandhi family and its party. Can the Congress be easily written off from the saffron dominated political spectrum of India? I think the Congress would still remain relevant though it is out of power. Its legacy spanning from Gandhi to Nehru to Patel and the role it had in the freedom movement would be enough for the Indian voters to think twice before they decide to discard the party forever.
The Aam Aadmi Party, with its sanctified anti corruption movement is not blessed with a legacy of freedom movement that the Congress is. Modi’s war on corruption seems to have widespread reverberation among the electorate and his pursuit in this direction has unquestionably crippled the means and methods of corruption to a large extent. The attention that he could vociferously grab in his Independence Day speech decreeing his uncompromising war against corruption was in the interest of the nation and to him corruption is an outcome of the Dynasty Raj in various parts of the country. Whereas, the Congress is all set to launch its ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ on September 7. The party’s newborn aspiration to revamp its essence and presence through a yatra across the country is all set to be the kind of one that the BJP during the days of L.K. Advani launched. For Rahul Gandhi, in his own words the yatra is like a ‘tapasya’. But the pertinent question most of its sympathisers are tired of asking is how long it will take for the Congress to once again make its presence felt. The yatra for 150 days covering a 3500 km long road route is destined to become the longest of such movements.   Will it be a square one exercise for the Congress with the Gandhi family behind the back of a proxy president?
(The author is Freelance Journalist/Social Worker)

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