The severe humiliation suffered by the Congress in the Delhi Assembly elections, where it lost deposit in most of the seats it contested, has now triggered a silent demand from the party workers to have a non-Nehru-Gandhi as party president, reports Sunday Guardian.
The key party functionaries are beginning to doubt and speculate that their message has not yet reached the Gandhis even as Sonia Gandhi is once again all set to hand over the reins of the Congress presidentship to Rahul Gandhi. The important leaders have already been alerted on Rahul’s reinstatement in March.
However, the general view of the party workers, which is shrinking day-by-day, is that it is time for Congress party to have a non-Gandhi at the helm of affairs, as advocated by Rahul himself that the only way forward was to have a non-Gandhi at the helm of affairs soon after 2019 Lok Sabha elections debacle. The party workers believe that the change in guard may ensure that Sonia Gandhi’s coterie that has developed a vested interest does not harm the party anymore.
The main apprehension of the Congress party workers is that if a member of the Gandhi Parivar continues to control the party then the result in the upcoming Bihar elections would not be any different from that of Delhi. Therefore, the need of the hour was to resuscitate the organisation for the future, the key functionaries believe.
Following the defeat in the capital, several senior party leaders such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jairam Ramesh and Milind Deora had to ask for the party to reinvent its ideology. They believe that the Congress party suffered humiliation in successive Lok Sabha elections, and many other state elections because they primarily deviated from its original doctrine. The Congress was always considered to be a secular outfit, and its apparently perceived tilt towards the minorities has resulted in the BJP—its main adversary—gaining an upper hand.
It is believed that the decline of the party started during the tenure of Sonia Gandhi as the party chief when she virtually outsourced the Congress to a handful of her advisers, who took arbitrary decisions which proved disastrous to the overall interests of the organisation. The general belief is that Sonia Gandhi is a major hurdle in Rahul’s political journey, as it were her advisers, who always had their way at his expense.
Rahul Gandhi had put some hard work lately but lost all the political capital thanks to his one gaffe or the other, which prevented him from being taken as a serious political player. The recent gaffe where he had asked the youth to hit the Prime Minister with a “danda”, pulls him down further as this kind of political idiom and language is least expected from the Nehru-Gandhis, who are viewed as leaders with political pedigree, given their illustrious background.
Rahul and Priyanka both campaigned in the Delhi polls but failed to connect with the voters of the Delhi. In fact, they did not even highlight the fact that Indira Gandhi’s mother, Kamala Nehru hailed from Bazaar Sita Ram. Instead, the brother and sister duo focussed on issues that did not have any resonance with the masses, who had already made up their mind to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
In fact, the low morale was evident in the party during the elections as the party workers did not even comment when a BJP leader referred to their father as Rajiv Feroze Khan. Nobody in the Congress came forward to either defend the former Prime Minister and put the record straight or condemn the remark. The general feeling was that their shielding Rajiv did not matter so far as its current leadership goes, but they would have been targeted by the BJP for doing so.
The Congress seems to have not learnt any lessons from the 2014 and 2019 outcome, as Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of former President Pranab Mukherjee, put it, that time was long over for further introspection as it was “the time to act”. She also cautioned former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, for hailing the AAP victory since the BJP had been humbled. The underlying question of the workers is, when would the day come when Congress would celebrate its own successes?
The Sunday Guardian further reported that top party leaders have been wanting Sonia Gandhi to understand that more than Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Vadra could have enhanced acceptability in the party. However, what has made matters complex is that within the family there is absolute discord so far as succession is concerned.
Interestingly Sonia Gandhi wants Rahul to lead but does not want to give him a free hand. At the same time, Rahul Gandhi believes that he is rather knowledgeable and continues to be guided by inexperienced aides. However, Priyanka Gandhi’s politics is focused on what her husband, Robert Vadra, wants her to do. Priyanka Gandhi largely toes the line of her husband Robert Vadra, who is an accused in several corruption cases. This scenario has contributed to the disillusionment of the workers.
The present Congress has no resemblance with the Congress headed by Indira Gandhi and subsequently by Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao. Senior party leader and adviser to both Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, Makhan Lal Fotedar had predicted in his 2016 book, that the party had reached a ‘cul-de-sac’, meaning Congress under the Gandhis holds no future. This sentiment perhaps was also felt by Rahul in 2019 though he could now be having second thoughts.
Reportedly, senior party leaders have also been reluctant to openly come out against the Gandhis, but believe that best recourse for reviving the Congress should be to take certain harsh yet practical political measures.
No matter whatever shape the Congress takes in the future, the general consensus amongst workers is, that the Nehru-Gandhis should take a political sabbatical. At this stage, they can no longer reap dividends for the party and, thus, at least for some time they should take a back seat.