Master-key of survival
Despite not being at the helm of affairs, Rahul Gandhi will continue to be an integral part of Congress in redefining its narrative and preparing it to contend against BJP
No one believed Rahul Gandhi when he offered his resignation two days after the devasting defeat of the Congress party in 2019 general elections. His reiteration that he was serious about his resignation was not taken seriously for a month. Most of the Congress leaders had a hope that Rahul will ultimately accept the decision of the Working Committee which had unanimously rejected his resignation and authorised him to restructure the organisation completely.
Outside the Congress party, people thought it was all drama, a ploy to escape blame and an effort to marshal support for his continuation. The media ensured the nation again and again that it is a matter of time only, melodrama would be over soon and Rahul will continue with business as usual, any day. Every one proved wrong in assessing Rahul's determination. Few had an idea of how strong-minded Rahul could be. His resignation episode has made many people wiser than they were earlier.
To Congress party, Rahul's resignation is a major blow—much more than its electoral defeat. But at the same time, it has unsettled all calculations of 'MoSha-Brigade'. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah must be finding themselves totally unarmed as their unrelenting attacks against Congress, naming it a family shop, has been neutralised by Rahul leaving the presidency and announcing that no member of the family will hold this position. BJP's strategy to describe Congress party as a dynastic outfit and project itself as a party with a difference will not work in any election now.
Rahul's resignation move is a two-edged sword. It has silenced BJP on one side and has created tremendous pressure to take appropriate steps within the Congress party to begin a process of complete removal of reasons responsible for the dismal state. If Rahul is to blame for the abysmal performance, many others also have to share this blame. No denying the fact that that a number of blunders in choosing the lieutenants, chalking out the strategies and adopting communication tactics contributed a lot in the defeat. But, despite running a powerful campaign, Rahul has done his part of owning accountability. The whole nation is waiting to watch the actions of those who had left their leader 'all alone' during a crucial battle.
Congress also lost badly because BJP exploited every opportunity to raise the sentiments of Hindu nationalism which drastically polarised the Indian society. BJP created a false sense of developmental growth and played the card of economic populism. Modi-Shah duo also did not spare any chance to portray their party as a force fighting against anti-elitism. At a time when these factors have strong potential to give much more political dividends to BJP in future, Rahul's absence has made the revival of the Congress a very difficult task. In today's unprecedented situation, Congress has to first make a consensus on a non-Gandhi under whom the party can keep itself united. Secondly, it has to reconstruct its organisation at all levels. If the Congress crosses through these two challenges successfully, the third would be to project an alternative narrative to RSS-BJP.
The foremost challenge before Congress is to survive without a Gandhi at the helm. At the moment, all leaders who have strong bases in their respective regions seem supportive for a unified Congress. Even an indirect but otherwise very clear stronghold of Rahul-Priyanka-Sonia on fundamental issues of the party would be able to ensure the internal stability. In a situation of absenteeism, I do not see an intact Congress fighting against BJP in 2024. Rahul's assurance that he will serve the Congress till his last breath is the only hope of ray if it means that he will take an active interest in all affairs of the party at an organisational level.
Regardless of whether Rahul Gandhi is the president of Congress or not, he will continue to be the most important leader of the party. His role in defining the party's narrative, his role in assisting decisions about party positions and his role in preparing Congress to take on against 'Sangh ideology' are the master-keys. After the political crisis in Goa and Karnataka, the survival of Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and results of the elections in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Delhi will decide the future of Congress. It all will depend on how actively and keenly Rahul takes interest in months to come.
After quitting the presidency of his party, Rahul has an opportunity to establish himself as an undisputed mass leader of the inclusive polity across the nation. He can emerge as an individual instrument of social transformation. The core of the Congress problem is its shambled organisational machinery. Loyalty to regional leaders has replaced ideology. Control by a handful of party functionaries has replaced the institutional structure. The top-down pipeline has replaced the natural flow of power springs. Secretarial barriers have replaced ground-level communication channels. Rahul must become a voice of common workers within his party and work for eradicating these serious defects.
There are pseudo-intellectuals who are offering prayers that Congress must die. They must realise that Congress is the only national alternative to BJP. There exist no other better political unit or group than Congress which can emerge as a pan-Indian replacement. The supposition that a two-party system is inevitable and another group of contenders will fill the opposition space is fatally flawed. India has space for just one national idea against RSS-BJP, and only Congress has the spirit, strength and the fundamental right to represent this idea. All parties except Congress have, at some point of time, concluded with the communal forces. Only Congress has an unblemished track record of fighting against the arms involved in disturbing social harmony.
As far as I have observed, after crossing over a very rough road in the past few years, Rahul is now more concerned with truth than opinions. He believes more in sincerity than pretending. He walks his talks and not a hypocrite. He knows who he actually is and tries to be that person. He is now awake to his own feelings. People might not be convinced of his reasons, of his sincerity, of the seriousness of his sufferings. But I am sure, his case cannot remain doubtful for a very long time. To be sincere is the best thing that can happen to you. But Rahul must learn to reserve and give his sincerity to those who deserve it. He must save his emotions, channelling them only to the people who are worthy of it. One must not throw one's pearls to the pigs.
(The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)