The Congress celebrated its 132nd foundation day earlier this week. At the function, the party flag was unfurled by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who stood in for his ailing mother Sonia Gandhi. The poor state of the health of the party president has not been lost on the functioning of the oldest political party of the country. In a sad reflection of party affairs, party’s current leader Rahul Gandhi was reduced to playing a supporting role to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee a day earlier at a media briefing to showcase opposition unity on the demonetisation issue. Banerjee in fact saved the day for the Congress leader by agreeing to share dais with him and cobble together the opposition as the Congress miserably failed in its initiative. The opposition satraps have repeatedly shown lack of confidence in Rahul Gandhi’s, and in turn, Congress’s ability to act as glue to bring the Opposition outfits together to counter the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A close look at the political developments of 2016 would show that Rahul Gandhi has wasted another year adding to the losses of the party. He has evolved into a figure who is unable to act without the crutches of advisors and his public pronunciations are never taken to be his own, and subsequently, not very seriously. This has also reflected on the political stance which the party has taken in the past year. His “khoon ki dalali” (bartering soldiers’ blood) comment on the surgical strike by the Army in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), his competitive bad-mouthing of Narendra Modi with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on the suicide committed by an ex-serviceman, and though on a lesser pitch, the brouhaha over the gunning down of the eight SIMI militants in Madhya Pradesh have only gone on to erode his credibility as a serious politician. His recent uttering on exposing the Prime Minister’s involvement in a corruption case did not cause a tremor, as he had promised, but only a whimper.
If the Congress party has to persist with Rahul Gandhi as its leader in the coming year, it must counsel him to take a leaf or two out of the politics of seasoned opposition satraps like Mamata Banerjee, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, or for that matter Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who has shown great political skills to emerge as an erudite leader from the crisis which his government and the party is facing from the old guard.
It’s very important that the Congress leadership chalks out a clear plan for the future and overcome the challenges of ceding fresh turfs to newbie Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Delhi Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in Punjab and Goa, where it has the fair chances of registering a comeback when assembly elections are held in coming spring. Party’s political performance in the state Assembly polls in 2017 would certainly decide the old party’s future and more importantly that of its leader – Rahul Gandhi.