Can Gandhis-mukth Congress be possible?


(MS Shanker)

A dissent within the Congress over the party leadership has triggered a virtual split.  A letter purportedly written by 23 senior Congress leaders to which stalwarts like Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma were signatories, was taken up for discussion at the Congres Working Committee meeting.  And, the meeting was chaired by none other than interim party president Sonia Gandhi.  Interestingly, the drama begins here where the interim president Sonia Gandhi offers to resign and she herself rejects it after some seniors like Dr Manmohan Singh and AK Antony’s insistence.  In fact, the party presidencship bounced back into her lap after none other than her own son resigned soon after party’s humiliating defeat at the hands of BJP in last year Lok Sabha polls.

The drama that played out at the CWC virtual meeting also had resignations threats and quick withdrawals too.  This was when one of the party’s legal luminary Kapil Sibal and unquestionable loyalist like Ghulam Nabi Azad were accused of acting to help BJP interests by Rahul Gandhi.  While Sibal took the social media route to express his displeasure tweeting such an insult is unpardonable, then Azad took pains to defend their decision to demand for party’s overhaul in larger interest.  In his tweet, Sibal reminded Rahul how he fought to ensure party to remain in power when some legislators led by Sachin Pilot raised a banner of revolt.  That Rahul’s ignorance of facts is also evident for turning a blind eye of his senior party colleague Sibal’s successful efforts in postponing the apex court of the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya temple row beyond 2019 polls.  Had the apex court pronounced Ayodhya verdict ahead of 2019 polls, a whitewash of Congress party would not have been ruled out.

As far as Ghulam Nabi Azad’s loyalty is concerned, as leader in the Rajya Sabha, he defended none other than Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi in indefensible National Herald case, when it figured in both the houses of parliament.

Look at who supported Sonia Gandhi’s continuation as party chief?  They are; former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who presided over series of scams during his second stint in office and the Defence Minister AK Antony, who religiously followed the diktat of Gandhis to stall the purchase of fighter jets Rafaels from France and also neglect infrastructure projects on Indo-China borders.

This notwithstanding the fact that 23 of their colleagues, who include young Turks like Miling Deora from Maharashtra and Jitin Prasada from UP, are demanding for party’s total overhaul.

Interestingly, such open dissent or revolt within the Congress is not new.  Post independence, much against the majority member’s opposition, Pandit Nehru was foisted as party president by none other than Mahatma Gandhi and later as country’s first Prime Minister of independent India in 1947. Yes, overlooking the clear majority of provinces supporting Sardar Patel candidature as prime minister.

Similarly, after the dark days of Emergency, Congress was split for the first time post-independence, when then party chief Kasu Brahmananda Reddy expelled Indira Gandhi from the party. That was in 1978.   After that formal split, the Congress did exist as two groups one being called as Reddy Congress and the other Indira Congress.

This was followed by another split in 1999 when senior Congress leader and prime ministerial aspirant Sharad Pawar was expelled for raising the foreign origin issue of Sonia Gandhi.  The party sacked two other senior Congress leaders, PA Sagma, former Lok Sabha Speaker and Tariq Answar along with Pawar for the same reason.

The party further seen yet another split in 2012 when Mamata Banerjee walked out to form her own regional outfit, Trinamul Congress in her native West Bengal state.  The fire-brand Mamata, interestingly, also succeeded in defeating the CPI (M) led government in 2016 polls.

In that backdrop, the Gandhi dynasta are becoming irrelevant in Indian politics is loud and clear now.  More and more senior Congress leaders are quite unhappy with the party leadership is evident from recent developments.  The recent casualty that the party suffered was in Madhya Pradesh.  This was when it could prevent Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was instrumental in helping the party coming back to power.  The leadership turned down his claim for chief minister post, and foisted the dynast’s choice Kamal Nath, who was one among the accused in the Delhi Sikh riots.  As result, in less than a year, the Kamal Nath-led Congress government lost power as Scindia walked out of the party with more than a dozen MLAs.

However, similar setback was somehow averted.   This was due to another young Turk, Sachin Pilot, who with to follow his counterpart Scindia, in Rajasthan.  Though he raised a banner for revolt against his bête noir Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, yet he failed as his calculations gone awry.  He could not retain 25 legislators support that he claimed while revolting.  Shrewd Gehlot played his cards well to keep his flock together and force Pilot to retreat.  Otherwise, Pilot not only risked his own political career, but also those 18 who remained with him as Gehlot camp was well equipped to disqualify them under anti-defection law.

What does the recent developments within the party convey?  All is not well in the Congress and 23 Congress leaders were genuine to ask for party’s overhaul in its best interests. While Sonia Gandhi’s health issues become a cause of concern, then reluctant and ignorance of Rahul Gandhi, is ruining the party’s image further.  His ‘foot-in-mouth’ comments against BJP, especially prime minister Narendra Modi, further eroded party’s image as well credibility.   Hence, some of these leaders are of the firm opinion that the party needs a total overhaul.

Many a political analyst also feel if dynasts were allowed to continue to head the dying Congress, then there is no hope for its revival in near future. And, also help Modi and his BJP to further consolidate its position.

Hence, many profess Gandhis-mukth Congress is the only solution in sight.  In that context, the party needs new full-time leadership if at all it wants to challenge Modi’s unstoppable juggernaut.  Ideal candidates may be either Sachin Pilot or Shashi Tharoor.

Many political analysts also feel, time has come for both mother and son to graciously step down and make room for smooth takeover young and dynamic leaders the party reigns.  Such a change alone can help revive the party.  People are vexed with Gandhi ‘resignation dramas’ and demand for their continuance by some regional leaders as party chief ministers.  Gandhis decision to handover the party reigns to ‘dummies’ like Dr Manmohan Singh or Kharges, also prove fools hardy.