Thursday’s election results in four big states can be read whichever way one wants depending on where one’s loyalties lie but I guess not many would argue on one aspect: the Congress Party is now clearly a Confused Party. Less than 24 hours after the Congress was erased from two more states on India’s political map, one of its veterans, Digvijaya Singh, came up with these nuggets — The party requires a deep surgery; enough introspection has been done and it is now time to act; young generation should take over.
That Digvijaya is among the old, tired faces who need to pave the way for young leaders with fresh legs and energy to deal with newer political challenges is one part of the story. But, to be fair to him, we can understand the reason for his fatigue. Branded the “mentor” of Rahul Gandhi after the latter was elected to Parliament for the first time in 2004, it has taken exactly 12 years for the Madhya Pradesh man to realise that he was dealing with a student who just cannot clear the test.
Unless one is from the Gandhi family, there is no way anyone else in the Congress would have been given so many opportunities only to fail each time. The first task Rahul took up was the reform of the NSUI and perhaps, soon realised it is beyond reform. Then, he picked the Youth Congress only to give up this assignment too. Soon, he was surrounded by a small coterie — some of whom have returned from abroad with fashionable ideas and others good at NGO work, not politics.
His mother, at least, learnt the nuances of dealing with coalition politics but he could not imbibe even that, prompting that famous statement from Lalu Prasad Yadav — “Unko mera chehra achcha nahi lagtha hai” (He doesn’t like my face). Add to this his comical acts — spending two hours at a biryani joint in Hyderabad or travelling by second class in a local train. At best, they are photo ops
(that too, because the party was in power at the time), nothing else.
Politics is a serious profession meant to serve the people and Rahul Gandhi seems anything but serious about anything he does. This is precisely what a Congress MP told me over dinner in Delhi a couple of weeks ago. They do not know what to do, the party is direction-less. In the past, right or wrong, they had one person to look up to — Sonia Gandhi. Anxious to ensure that her son clears the test, Sonia is said to have stopped taking active interest in party affairs, hoping that the son will learn the ropes. But, the problem appears to be that he doesn’t know what partymen tell him and they do not understand what he tells them.
Of all the reactions and anecdotes we heard on TV shows Thursday, the most amusing was given by Himanta Biswa Sarma from Assam, a Congressman for many years before he raised the banner of revolt and joined the BJP. He was a minister in the Tarun Gogoi cabinet and was patiently waiting for his turn only to have his hopes dashed when Gogoi fielded his son in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The signal was clear. It will either be the senior Gogoi or his son. Asked if he joined the BJP because Rahul Gandhi refused him appointment, Sarma came up with this: “No. your information is wrong. I was indeed given audience. But, the problem is that the moment you start telling him something, he starts playing with his pet. In between, he pretends to be listening but you can make out he is not serious.” He then went on to say that there was no future for the Congress until it gave up reliance on “blue blood” leaders. In other words, those who represent the dynasty culture that the Congress is synonymous with and Rahul is right up there. Sarma was also a protégé of Digvijaya, who was general secretary for Assam, and the latter is reported to have promised him the top job but the “high command” put its faith in 80-year-old Gogoi.
Poor Digvijaya lamented that it is now more than a year since all general secretaries submitted a detailed report to Rahul Gandhi on the reasons for the 2014 debacle and to this day, they do not know what happened to it. Blame it on Rahul Gandhi or his pet?
Like after every electoral debacle, we are beginning to hear the same chorus. Rahul has failed, so it is time for Priyanka to step in and save the party. Congressmen are hoping that she will somehow be cajoled into entering politics by the time elections in Uttar Pradesh draw close. If not anything else, it could stem further rot is what they seem to think. In any case, that is the last weapon in the arsenal for Congressmen who cannot see beyond 10 Janpath. “The party is neither in the ICU nor on the death bed,” a senior Congress leader waxed on Thursday but the fact remains that sooner than later, it is bound to slip into a “beyond redemption” zone given its piling “Non-Performing Assets” (NPAs), just as some of our public sector banks are saddled with.
So, the choice before Congressmen is to work for a Gandhi-mukt Congress or aid the BJP in its campaign to achieve a Congress-mukt Bharat.
G S vasu is Editor of TNIE.