No easy way out of the Congress leadership conundrum - GulfToday

No easy way out of the Congress leadership conundrum

Jayanta Ghosal


Journalist. Based in Delhi since 1987.


Rahul Gandhi.

The opposition’s role in democracy is always very important. Ruling party and opposition dialectics is the core strength of democracy. It keeps the balance of power in the system. The ruler becomes a dictator if the opposition is weak. From President Donald Trump to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, a new right-wing populism has emerged. It has also emerged in London. Many people think it is a phenomenon that has emerged out of weak opposition space.

After the massive victory of Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, what is the news of Rahul Gandhi? What is happening in the opposition Congress? What is the status of the Congress? What is happening in the Gandhi family?

I rang up at Tughlak Lane and heard that he was abroad; will be back soon. Many of the leaders go abroad for some days in this horrible summer of Delhi — not a new thing here. But since the budget session is on till July 24, political leaders have to stay in Delhi. Rahul Gandhi is also staying here most of the time. He is visible in Parliament.

Rahul Gandhi has resigned. He has left the post taking responsibility for the party’s defeat. It is not just drama. He is firm in his decision. If you look at the Congress benches from the Lok Sabha’s press gallery today, you will feel the sadness of the fact about this hundred-and-a-half year old political party. From Allan Octavian Hume to Surendranath Banerjee — what a history it has been of the Congress!! Where has it come today?

I think Rahul Gandhi is a good soul. It is true that he is very interesting in a private chat but the task of becoming a leader of such a complex country’s political party is probably not suitable for him. I also saw how he was nominated as Vice President at the Congress session in Jaipur. I was in Jaipur that day. During the announcement that day, it seemed that Rahul himself was not very excited about this responsibility. He has always been a ‹reluctant’ politician.

After Rahul Gandhi’s resignation, the Congress’s situation has become worse. Actually, the Congress is now without a guardian. State leaders and other organizational leaders have resigned but senior leaders are not able to accept their resignation letters. The all-India President of the party himself has resigned. The Congress Working Committee will have to accept the resignation, but Rahul tweeted that he is no longer the president.

Modi and the BJP’s top leadership said during the elections and even now that the Congress is run by a family. Modi repeatedly attacked the Congress. So from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rahul Gandhi, the Congress has been running this country, but the people of India are against this dynastic rule.

Now, look at the organization’s situation. I do not know whether the Congress party can survive without this family. There is infighting in the Congress in all states. There is friction between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, between Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh. It is the old versus the new controversy. How many conflicts are there? But Rahul Gandhi or the members of the family can have the last word which all leaders will accept. Therefore, the Gandhi family is a wonderful cementing factor in congress united force.

I saw how many leaders were fired by the dream of leadership when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Arjun Singh, Sharad Power, Karunakaran, Narasimha Rao, and many others. But, what was the first resolution of the Congress Working Committee after this? The Congress Working Committee unanimously requested Sonia Gandhi to be the next leader. But Sonia politely refused the offer — it can be called a positive ‹No’. The next question was who would be the leader. Narasimha Rao became the leader and Sonia Gandhi endorsed this.

When Narasimha Rao was accused of trying to lead the ‹Bofors’ investigation against Sonia, even after allegations of laxity in investigating the murder case of Rajiv Gandhi, she went to Amethi and started her political journey. I was in Amethi that day. It was raining that afternoon.

She started her political life. Priyanka was also there that day. In Congress history Sitaram Kesri became the president of the party, but we have also seen how Sonia Gandhi became party president by removing Keshri. It was a smooth operation. It was possible only for someone with the brand name Gandhi.

Pramod Mahajan, the late BJP leader, once told me that the Congress party had a great advantage, where a leader and a family took all decisions. Taking decisions was easy for them. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister in the party but the decisions were usually taken by four or five people. L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Murli Manohar Joshi, and others. I have left out the RSS and Brajesh Mishra. In the Congress, this can be called dictatorship, but for the sake of decision making process it works.

Today, after seeing the Congress party in this situation, I am reminded again of Pramod Mahajan. What is this party? Assembly elections in Jharkhand, Haryana, Delhi and Maharashtra are close at hand. For the Congress party, victory in these states is difficult.

By contrast, if Rahul Gandhi becomes Congress president, then he will have to take responsibility for the next defeat as well.

So in today’s acute crisis in Congress, will Priyanka Gandhi come to the rescue of the party? Or can a senior leader be the working president as of now? Or will a young leader be made the full-time president? Or, will Rahul Gandhi eventually return under party pressure?

At present, whether Akbar Road or in the Central Hall of Parliament everyone is busy speculating on who will be the Congress President. I think the Congress party should decide quickly for the sake of democracy of our country.

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