INC: Remoulding the Present and the Future

By: Shawaiz Ali Khan

An uncanny silence has taken over the opposition in India. It can be clearly seen that the leaders of the opposition are refraining from criticising the government and its policies, which is not a thing of familiarity in our country among political parties. For instance, we see Mayawati, the BSP Supremo in Uttar Pradesh, extremely quiet. In fact, she was the one who demanded a President’s rule in Rajasthan at a time when the BJP was avoiding making such statements and now, she is clearly seen working to strengthen the position of BJP in the political crisis of Rajasthan. Another to mention would be Akhilesh Yadav, who sometimes makes statements against the Yogi government but lately, has not spoken directly against the core leadership of the BJP, as a whole. Looks like Tejaswi Yadav is also quite busy and involved with state politics. We also have Mamata Banerjee, who was ever ready to take up a one-on-one fight with PM Modi up till 2019 General Elections but today one can notice her quietude. Similar to these ministerial captains, is the situation of others- Arvind Kejriwal, Naveen Patnaik, YSR Reddy and KC Rao. 

Amid the quietness today, only two voices can be heard far in the country- Rahul Gandhi’s chastising of the Prime Minister and Ashok Gehlot’s staunch eagerness to remove Sachin Pilot from his way of dominating the administration and the party politics in Rajasthan. Mr. Gandhi is adamant on not leaving any stone unturned to attack the Prime Minister- be it the Chinese standoff issue or the prevailing spread of the coronavirus pandemic- he is not missing any chance to exert his vehement opposition, irrespective of the noteworthiness and legitimacy of the argument. But why is it that the Congress Party is having such a hard time to save its own fort in Rajasthan at a time when it should work together at full power to underline the failures of the government? Why is it that at a time like this, its own leaders are plotting against each other? So where does the Congress actually stand today? To analyse the existing silence of opposition and the Congress’ role, we have to understand the events that have been shaping our country since 2014, for starters. The fear of the central agencies- CBI, ED and IT- knocking at the doors of political leaders has made them quite reluctant to speak anything that goes against the ruling party. However, the ‘use of agencies’ is not really new in our country, but because of the implementation of work and ethics, it is for the first time that political parties are finding it strenuous to cope up with the new BJP- the BJP of Modi and Shah. Today, even the Congress is not daring to criticise the government like it has been doing in the past. But here comes the thing if we see the matter of situation intricately- Congress is quiet, Rahul Gandhi isn’t. It seems as if Mr. Gandhi is trying to rewrite his politics- from a new chapter. Before the 2019 elections, Mr. Gandhi was surrounded by a group of young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, RPN Singh and Jitendra Prasad, who made it appear as if he was trying to create a new youth brigade in the party for himself. At that point in time, the question was how the ‘old guard’ of the Congress is going to work with the young clan of intellectuals and most interestingly, will Gandhi dominate the youngsters or will he be led by his own men in a manner that the entire structure that he is aiming to bring will come crashing down at his own feet. 

Until the elections of 2019, the Gandhi family used to be the magnet for Congress which held the different camps of the party together. If any leaders had any issues with one another, ‘10 Janpath’ was the address that they looked up to for resolving their conflicts. But after the discreditable loss of 2019 elections, a new picture was brought on screen. We can look at a fine example to prove our point, amid the ongoing Rajasthan crisis itself. It comes off like the Gandhis have completely separated themselves from the crisis and are letting Gehlot and Pilot take on each other directly. A similar situation was seen when Scindia left the Congress, back in March this year. Especially Rahul Gandhi can be seen separating himself from the issues that are taking place between different leaders of the party. Not only that but he has also distanced himself from the youth brigade of the Congress Party which was actually his initiation. It is expected as if Mr. Gandhi is trying to create a new image for himself inside the Congress as well as in the political scenario of the nation by taking on fights directly with the Prime Minister- just like Narendra Modi created a charismatic reputation that made him bigger than his party and even the RSS, we can see Rahul Gandhi trying to shape himself as a leader capable of rebelling against Modi’s charisma. To what extent he has been successful in doing so can be deliberated, but the fact still remains that amid the coronavirus pandemic, crippling economy, dreadful condition of MSMEs and the LAC standoff with China, Mr. Gandhi is the only opposition leader to have been speaking up.

Where lies the problem?

Congress’ state of affairs in the country today is unusually deplorable, accounting for several reasons. The party lacks a leader who can take on Modi and Shah’s BJP, to say the least. This has been the situation of the Congress since the sad demise of Rajiv Gandhi and as a gradual result, after 1998, the Congress started losing its core voters. By 2019, it shrank to 19% of the total votes. As if regaining its political base in the country wasn’t a big enough issue for the party already that it started facing the menace of sustaining its governments in the states where it had won the elections. Karnataka, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar are several cases where it lost its authority to the BJP. 

Another headache of course is the prevalence of issues among the leaders of the party. An association cannot work to its full potential with all its members ready to destroy the career of one another. The parties’ general secretaries are also working with zero capacity at ground level. We have for example, Mr. Khadge, as in charge of the party in Maharashtra, who lives either in Karnataka or New Delhi all the time. Similar is the condition of Harish Salve, the ex-CM of Uttarakhand, who is in charge of Assam and Ghulam Nabi Azad, ex-CM of J&K, who is in charge of Haryana. Now, what knowledge do these leaders possess of the regional politics of the states they are put in charge of, is a big fat question mark. Moreover, the general secretaries do not seem to be cooperating with the state leaders at all. The party needs strong regional leaderships to expand its base- like in Punjab, it has Captain Amrinder Singh; in Chhattisgarh the party has Bhupesh Baghel. These leaders have been working with state party workers on the ground for a long time and that is why things get done in these regionalities. Even if the party somehow manages to have strong regional leaderships, it still comes down to the need of a strong central leader who can keep the flock together. The fact remains that Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah have managed to create such a powerful and authoritative image of themselves that no one in the state leadership of BJP or even in the cabinet ministers dares to question their word. They have very effectively made the party dependent on their leadership, which has been very unlikely of the Congress so far since Rajiv Gandhi. 

What lies next for Congress?

Right now, the Congress’ high command seems to be reluctant to take any action which can hinder the party’s agenda in the future, and perhaps rightly so. Decisions and party policies now seem to be taken in regards with a future agenda, which will be something uncommon for the Congress party. As of now, decisions were taken in present for today- not thinking of the consequences it might have on the party in future. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi is doing everything he can to reshape his image. From starting his own YouTube Channel, taking his interviews to being the sole leader from the opposition questioning the Prime Minister to his face, this is a new politics that Mr. Gandhi seems to be taking on. What lies next for him is a big question because in the post-2019 political era, with the situations prevailing in the country, the people are not yet able to picture him as a balanced alternative to the leadership of Narendra Modi. What Congress needs right now is a full of personality leadership that can prove itself to be worthy of people’s trust and mandate. This kind of leadership comes when the party connects with the workers and voters on the ground level and the leadership is able to fill the gap between the old guard and the young faces of the party. Those times in the Indian politics have long gone when a party used to engineer a mathematical formula based on castes and used to win. A new kind of politics has emerged in India which shows the people that it has the ability to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of India. Polls and tweets on social media won’t make a difference until one connects with the emotions of the common people of the country, as it can be said.