Rudderless as never before

Instead of taking the bull by its horns in Parliament, the Indian National Congress has repeatedly looked listless and abdicated its responsibility as the largest opposition party. The following article shall examine some of the events that illustrate the party’s current state.
Sharad Yadav has won only one Lok Sabha election and is considered to be a leader without any political base. But, of late, it is Sharad Yadav who has emerged as the tallest leader of the opposition,  leading the brigade in Rajya Sabha too. Though the Congress is still the largest opposition party in the Upper House, it is Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) and Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) who set the agenda of the day. In the absence of Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leaders have failed to act like a cohesive opposition. It is only Yechury and Yadav who decide the opposition’s strategy and the Congress leaders are left with little choice but to fall in line. Given the lack of choice, a large section within the Congress would like to support the BJP on most issues on the excuse that it is in keeping with its party line. But for Yadav and Sitaram, they are forced to toe the opposition line. On the other hand, the BJP’s wily operator Arun Jaitley is using his cross-party connections to get away with what he wants. It is only because of Yadav and Yechury, that the government has found itself helpless in the upper house.


A section of dejected Congress leaders has started to explore options outside the Gandhi family. The feeling gaining ground is that under the present dispensation,  it is impossible for the Congress to recover its losses. The feeling within these sections, which seems to have given up hope on the Gandhis, is that this is the time to unify the Congress family and move forward on the lines of the socialist parivar. They plan to bring back the Mamata-led Trinamool Congress, Sharad Pawar-led NCP and the Wasan-led Tamil Manila Congress in Tamil Nadu. After 1984, the Congress has never got a majority on its own under the Gandhis. Even in 1991, Narasimha Rao could only form a minority government, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. In 1996, under Rao, the Congress numbers fell to 140 and in 1998, under Sitaram Kesri, the party strength in parliament was 141.

In 1999, under Sonia Gandhi the numbers fell to 114 and in 2004 Sonia could raise it only upto 145, just four more than Kesri. However,  she was wise enough to form an alliance with political forces from the left to form the government. But in 2009 too, the party failed to get an absolute majority, though the numbers swelled to 202. But that was down to Manmohan Singh, claim those opposing Rahul Gandhi. That was his chance but he missed it says a senior ex minister. This section, which is in favour of bringing together the large Congress family, comprises of senior Congress leaders and ex ministers, who can neither join the BJP nor can they resurrect the party on their own shoulders. According to them, given Sonia Gandhi’s health and Rahul’s incompetence, it is time for the party to look beyond the Gandhis.


The forty-year delay in the L N Mishra case has brought to light several other pending cases in Indian courts. A high profile case is the tussle over the patent infringement of The Financial Times by India’s largest media house. The case has been dragging on for 20 years, with the Supreme Court sitting over it for the last four years. The apex court was expected to deliver the final judgement in November 2014, but the same is yet to see the light of day. The delay has been caused by clever lawyering by the legal brain of the Indian media company. The Narendra Modi-led government is keen to improve India’s rank in the ease of doing business index to at least 50 from the current 142. But such inordinate delay in high profile cases will not help the cause. Given the importance of the media house, both the court and government seem to be keeping low profile on the issue.

The Youth Congress organised a get-together of all its ex presidents two weeks ago, a programme that was attended by Rahul Gandhi. Here too, the Congress vice-president sought suggestions on how to revive the dwindling party. Rahul faced a barrage of criticism at the meet. Ramesh Chennithala, the minister from Kerala who was the ex youth Congress president of Kerala, was highly critical of Rahul Gandhi’s style of functioning. He asked Rahul whether he was running a political outfit or an NGO. One SP Goswami, the ex youth Congress president of Uttar Pradesh, was extremely upset over the manner the Congress leadership was treating its workers. He told Rahul that the senior leadership has lost touch with its  workers.


Ashish Ranjan Sinha, the former DGP of police in Bihar, who quit his job to join politics, has already acquired the reputation of a party hopper. He was desperate to contest the 2009 election, so he joined the JD(U) as he was considered close to the then chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar. Also a Kurmi, he belonged to Nitish’s home district. But Nitish did not oblige him with the ticket that he had lobbied so hard for. Then he moved over to Lalu Prasad’s RJD, then arch rival of Nitish Kumar. He was then spotted at all the rallies by Lalu Prasad and was widely expected to be the RJD candidate from Nalanda in the 2014 general election. But here too luck failed him. The prestigious seat went to Congress under the pre poll alliance with the RJD. This prompted Sinha to join the Congress and get its ticket, but again the erstwhile DGP failed to make it. He came third. He recently joined the BJP with the realisation that he had no scope in the grand alliance of the JD(U) RJD and Congress.


BJP’s dream of expanding its base to a pan-India level is unlikely to come true. The grand alliances stitched in Tamil Nadu before the Lok Sabha elections have already started to fall like ninepins. Vaiko has already severed his ties with BJP on the Sri Lanka issue. He has alleged that Prime Minister Modi is promoting the Sri Lankan president Rajapaksha. PMK too is on its way out. The PMK chief Dr Ramadoss, too, is unhappy with the BJP and even Vijaykanth who had joined hands with the BJP after severing his ties with the Congress, has warned the BJP that it must keep their promise and would make him the CM, if the alliance comes to power in the state. He also wants an assurance from the BJP leadership over the requirement of his support for the party.


The Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is very keen to revive the Indian National Congress. To find a solution to this problem, Rahul has started to solicit advice from top leaders in the Congress. He has been meeting these leaders in batches. In one such batch, which had important leaders like Ahmad Patel, Manish Tiwari and Mohan Prakash, Rahul had asked for the definition of the Congress party. He even sought suggestions on how to revive the moribund Congress. Questions were asked that if the BJP stood for Hindutva, then what did the Congress stand for? While each one had a different answer, some like Ahmad Patel is supposed to have said that the word secularism should be replaced by some other word. He is supposed to have said that the term ‘secularism’ has been misused by the saffron forces and has come to be seen as a form of Muslim appeasement. 

Mohan Prakash, who himself is a socialist turned capitalist, said that the party should recruit full time jhola chaap volunteers, who should sit at paanwala shops and get the public’s view. He gave  his own example of when he started as a socialist. But at this Rahul is supposed to have rejected the idea and said that the days of paanwala are over. Manish Tiwari was of the opinion that the party does not have to fight the BJP alone, but it is primarily the corporates that the party has to fight.


The three-time ex-chief minister of Nagaland Neiphiu Rio, who joined the BJP before the elections on the promise that he would made a minister, is not very happy.  He waited till the first expansion of the Union Cabinet, but when he failed to find a place even in that reshuffle, he sought to quit the BJP. Recently, he, along with PA Sangma, met the JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and expressed his desire to join this new socialist formation. Yadav is supposed to have told them to wait for some time and then they can join once things settle down. Meanwhile, many other leaders across the country have been meeting Sharad Yadav too.  IPA

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