No more a dancing floor
Congress must rise from ruins and usher a new era to compete against a flourishing BJP that has gripped the nation with its mandate
With Rahul Gandhi relinquishing the party president's position, it has become more difficult for Congress to find a leader as decisive and agile as that of Bhartiya Janata Party. Challenges before Congress are multidimensional. They are from nimble-footed behemoth BJP which is powered by ideologically committed workers as well as from within with an entire brigade of worthless creatures at the helm of affairs.
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have redefined the decades' old rules of the game in Indian politics. To play the game while following the 'MoSha' statute is the stiffest test that Congress has to pass. It cannot be done unless the leadership becomes more accessible to party workers. Congress can have a new president but for millions of party workers, Rahul only will remain their leader. Therefore, the success of any revival plan will depend on his communion with them. Every step Rahul takes will go a long way and he will have to focus on mega issues at the micro-level.
It is time Rahul deliberates upon the major socio-political churns in our national polity. The future trajectory of India will depend on how the Congress party addresses concerns of Hindu society in a most diverse country in the world. There was a time when Congress was the only aggregator of country's diversified population. Various sections of the society felt comfortable under its single umbrella. After Independence, Congress evolved a balanced system of power-sharing between different castes and communities. That social structure of power went well for decades. Representation of Dalits and Tribals at all levels of the political system was ensured. A strong commitment to secularism and ensuring the security of minorities kept those sections with Congress.
A clear vision of party leaderships enabled Congress to beat several challenges such as Dravidian politics in south, communist parties in Bengal, Kerala and few other states, Dalit assertion under the aegis of Ambedakarwadi Bahujan politics and ideological construct of Samajwad by OBCs. None of them could emerge as the main aggregator at the pan-Indian stage. The political scene for Congress took turn mainly after 1991.
But the carrot and stick-based MoSha-method changed everything and BJP heralded the new age of social engineering in electoral politics. Congress was replaced by BJP as the main aggregator in the nation's politics. Last seven years were full of deception and distortion with a focus on forming an alliance of various Hindu sections. RSS and BJP worked overtime to conceive a 'United Spectrum of Hindu Votes' (USHV). They went to every district level and ensured that a micro caste alliance among Hindus takes strong shape. Congress, on the other hand, was busy administering the philosophical narrative of anti-poverty policies, inclusiveness, and democratic values. Oblivious of real danger, people chose to buy MoSha-nationalism. They ignored the threat a highly polarised country might face in times to come. To make the common people aware of this crisis will be the fundamental responsibility of Congress now.
Congress also has to fight against the influence of RSS-minded individuals who have captured policy-making institutions, media, and academia in the last five years. They are effectively leveraging to intensify the conflict between the old urban class and the new. Neo-urban class is a product of economic reforms and has practically no respect for Nehruvian model of a welfare society. This class is so much under pressure of market forces that it understands no basics of religion, secularism, and nationalism. To them, real concerns and local aspirations have no meaning. They crave to be the global citizens and perceive Narendra Modi as someone who will ensure the green card of this citizenship for them. Congress will have to find ways to bridge this gap of fundamental differences and make the youth attentive to real issues.
Ground from under the feet of Congress has shifted briskly because Rahul Gandhi had weak lieutenants around him after practically taking over the reins of his party in 2013. He had a multifaceted plan though the team he built was not only naïve but was full of imperious attitude, eager to enjoy the power and impatient to conclude their greed. Most of his team had been on a picnic trip for all these years. A pimple upon an ulcer was the mood of the sidelined old guards who obviously relished Rahul struggling because of his trust in his teammates. Rahul could not achieve his goal because he embraced some wrong people and dethroned some right ones.
Congress has always had a chequered history. Maintaining cordial relations among leaders has always been a problem. Jawahar Lal Nehru's relationship with Acharya Kraplani and Purushottam Das Tandon, Indira Gandhi's relationship with K Kamraj, S Nijalingappa and Morarji Desai and Rajiv Gandhi's relationship with Kamalapati Tripathi and Vishwanath Pratap Singh are no hidden stories. But efforts to manage conflicts were no lesser. Congress lacked this spirit in the past few years. If Sonia Gandhi did not play her party, Congress would have gone to a mess long back.
Rahul Gandhi's resignation from the presidency of his party has the potential to cut both ways at the moment. His flowing attainment as a leader shall revive the Congress at the core. His absence at the rudder can convert Congress into a feeble organisation—totally incompetent to take on the political ultimatums posed by MoSha. Rahul has said in his resignation letter, "I am available to the party whenever they require my services, input or advice." It shows some apathy because he does not find today's Congress structure strong enough to attract his assistance. Congress needs to radically transform itself to take Rahul along.
The solace for party workers is that Rahul has assured, "In no way, shape or form am I stepping back from this fight. I am a loyal soldier of the Congress party and a devoted son of India and will continue to serve and protect her till my last breath." That means on his personal level, Rahul will continue fighting for the same values and principles that the Congress has been fighting for. This ray of hope will keep Congress base intact in coming years. Rest will depend on the new presidency of the Congress party, which has to infuse life with its actions. Waiting for it to happen will be idiocy.
To make its own future, to make its own hope and to create its own trust, Congress has to walk hundreds of extra miles. It needs efficient surgeons for internal surgeries. More than that, it also needs skilled social engineers to give MoSha mechanism a fitting reply. It is not easy. Without Rahul Gandhi it is impossible. Congress is not here only for a living. If it does not enrich the foundations of democracy, it will have no future. To have a bright future it has to surround itself with genuine folk. It can no more be a dancing floor for the creamy layer.
(The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)