Cong needs multiple surgeries
Manifestations of an acute lack of civilised political culture.
Stunned by the electoral verdict in Uttar Pradesh and other states in the just concluded Assembly polls, some political parties and their top leadership have lost balance and perspective. The rejection of their fear-inducing narrative, of their tales of division and of their overall myth has been so decisive that it has driven them to, what appears to be, a prolonged spell of incoherence.
The incoherence and rant-mentality is visible in the utterances of the leaders of Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, and Aam Aadmi Party, just because their tale-spinning took a big hit, their propaganda and false narratives were rejected by the people, their tall claims and inflated notions of grandeur were trampled in the dust of the Hindi heartland, and electorate decided to reject and dump the politics of appeasement, of casteism, and of dynastism – a political tripod which had propped them up all these years – these leaders are cursing the wisdom of the people and ranting against the system. One would do well to accept that these are actually the manifestations of an acute lack of a civilised political culture.
But let us come to the Congress party under its leader Rahul Gandhi. After the Uttar Pradesh debacle, which Rahul in his naïveté has termed "a little down", some of the veterans of the party who had assisted his mother in keeping the Congress shop open and into brusque business have begun to draw daggers – calling for serious "restructuring" in the party. But perhaps the most poignant observation came from Satyavrat Chaturvedi who, like he had done in May 2016, called for undertaking a "cardiac surgery" in the Congress party, which, he argued, might revive the near-moribund party. But one, of course, expects no serious introspection from a party which is a dynasty led conglomerate or to use Arun Jaitley's colourful but hugely apt description, which is "a crowd around a fading dynasty."
For the Congress in its present state, a cardiac surgery would scarcely do, what is needed is a multiple bypass, if it hopes to survive in some form. Over the years, the Congress dynasty has either destroyed or prevented grassroots leader from evolving. For any party to survive and thrive, merit-based leadership, which organically rises from the grassroots, is a must, especially for a long-term growth, survival and spread.
One of the cardinal points of difference between Congress under Rahul today and BJP under Shah is exactly this. The BJP under Shah has put together a structure where grassroots political work is recognised and encouraged, where merit in conferring responsibility has become the sole criteria. As long as the "dynasty" keeps clasping the Congress's body-politic and insists on defining its raison d'être and narrative, the Congress shall continue to face acute asphyxiation and gradually be deprived of life. The first step therefore, for those among its leadership who are concerned for the future of the party, would be to bypass – if they at all can – the "dynasty", consign it to irrelevance and bring together some of those who still have pockets of grassroots influence and stake claim to the party's leadership. But this would require gumption and some thinking and intellectual prowess – all of which is in short supply in the Congress today.
The other bypass that is urgently needed is ideationally linked to the first. It is the need to reject the narrative that the "dynasty" has thrust on the Congress in the last three decades, especially since Sonia Gandhi took control of the party. It is from Sonia's control of the party that the "dynasty" narrative further gained steam. It saw the Congress developing infatuation for divisive forces, rejecting its agenda – if at all it had any – of empowering the marginalised, insisting on turning them into dole-dependents, intensifying its denominational divisiveness, evolving a culture of trying to frame political opponents, especially if they happen to be leaders who challenge the "dynasty" – like Narendra Modi who was hounded for years - and retracting on its commitment to nationalism – the culmination of which one saw last year when Sonia's son and Indira's grandson, like a "valiant" rider, joined hands with those who, in the hallowed precincts of an educational institution, raucously called for India's dismemberment. By bypassing this "dynasty" narrative of itself, the Congress, if it has some brain-trust left, must evolve a new narrative more akin to its earlier avatar of the freedom struggle.
The third would be to bypass and vanquish the coterie of old fogeys, throw out those who surrounded the unmindful or unthinking "princeling" and daily inject him with outdated "revolutionary" ideas that have absolutely no takers in today's India. Except for a few rootless "politbureau leaders", whose appeal do not extend beyond the outer limits of the Gole Market circle, no one finds any utility or relevance for these "revolutionary" ideas that are fed to Rahul and who dutifully regurgitates them. For the "New India" these are moribund expressions from era gone by. The "New India" aspires for empowerment and for opportunities, a narrative which the Congress, under Rahul Gandhi, is incapable of articulating.
But the wisest option perhaps would be for a temporary demobilisation of the Congress itself and for some of its last remaining thinkers to withdraw and deliberate on whether there is at all a need for pulling on with the show. Being an adherent of the philosophy of "Congress-Mukt Bharat", I would naturally prescribe the last.
(Dr. Anirban Ganguly is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal.)