Decoding Digvijaya Singh's desperation: Surgery not enough for Congress revival; it needs a rebirth

It seems that even Digvijaya Singh is not happy with Rahul Gandhi.

"I would say that we want a new Congress, a new charter, a new roadmap, a new style of campaigning... There’s no other person who can do it better than Rahul Gandhi. He has to act... My complaint against him is that he is not acting decisively," a report in Indian Express quoted him as saying, at their Idea Exchange event.

We mention 'even' because the veteran Congress leader is perceived to be close to Rahul and was rumoured to be his political mentor at one point in time. A rather uncharitable view of the leadership from someone like him suggests that a sense of panic and helplessness has crept into the party, after the latest round of Assembly election defeats.

Several other senior leaders have already hinted at the failure of the top leadership in the last few days. But, nobody would speak out loud about their disapproval of Rahul or party president Sonia Gandhi, whoever is running the party.

File image of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. PTI

File image of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. PTI

Even a show of desperation has to be tempered with caution – that tells you a lot about the state of the Congress party. A revolt against the family is impossible; there’s no leader good enough to take the lead in states on his own and there is no one down the command and control chain who would take responsibility and accountability for their actions – there is something bizarre about the way the fates of the Congress and Congressmen are tied to the Gandhis.

Imagine a scenario when the Gandhis decide to wash their hands off the Congress. It would mean the disintegration of the party. The party’s structural organisation is not designed to survive without the family. It cannot create new leaders. In times of crisis, the weaknesses become all too apparent.

The need for a new Congress, new charter and new roadmap – as Digvijaya would put it – has been felt long ago. After every electoral defeat, some leader or the other pipes up on the need for organisational revamp. Even Rahul has been referring to it off and on. But his lethargy to put any change in motion has been spectacular.

If any Congressman starts questioning his intent, it would not be entirely misplaced. According to Congress watchers, there has been no change in the core set of people in the decision-making process and no punishment for anyone for the party’s poor performance in elections. There are just too many people occupying party positions with no accountability for their actions. If Rahul was serious about bringing about a change, he would have done something already.

It was expected that the 2014 General Election results would be a huge slap on the Congress’s face. That it would spur the party to take corrective action. No such action is visible yet. In December 2013, Rahul had promised transformation in ways 'nobody could imagine'; in 2014, he had said the party had done badly and needed to think about it; after the loss in Maharashtra and Goa, he had said the party would work hard to regain confidence of people. After the defeat in Uttar Pradesh recently, he had said something similar.

If he is disinterested in the party, and politics in general, he could pave the way for others to take over the party. If he is actually interested in reviving the party, he cannot continue with half-measures and do nothing between elections to energise the organisation. And where is the enthusiasm to create a new Congress with new ideas?

The General Election of 2019 is lost for the Congress already. Unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi does something utterly foolish, he is not likely to lose the election. Even if the BJP does badly under him, the Congress will not be the gainer. So the latter has to prepare itself keeping the 2024 elections in mind.

By then, many of the senior leaders would be out of action for the reason of age. The party would need new leaders to take their place. The process of transition has to start from now. But where are the new leaders? And would there be any cadre left to back them?

Congressmen keep referring to a major surgery to revive the party. But given the extent of the disease a surgery may not be enough. It needs a rebirth. Maybe that’s what Digvijaya meant by a 'new' Congress.


Published Date: Mar 18, 2017 01:34 pm | Updated Date: Mar 18, 2017 01:34 pm