Alienating middle class, blind-siding youth: Congress failed on all counts

If politics is about keeping in touch, being in constant conversation with various stakeholders in the democracy and re-inventing oneself as a political entity in tune with the demands of the times, the Congress has failed on all counts.

It may not be officially dead yet, but it’s a matter of time. It’s going to linger a bit like the Indian Left before the curtain comes down. The results of the Maharashtra and Haryana polls only confirm which way the party is headed.

 Alienating middle class, blind-siding youth: Congress failed on all counts

Reuters image.

While it is generally perceived that it is Narendra Modi who put the party on the course to oblivion, the reality could be slightly different. The party’s self-terminating gene has been active for over two decades, but dynamics of national politics kept it afloat, making it, as Rahul Gandhi would say, the country’s choice by default. Modi put a stop to that with his new idiom of politics and delivered a massive push to the decline of the Congress.

The inability of the party to take all segments of Indians along with it has been evident for sometime. It stopped conversing with urban India long ago. It still refuses to acknowledge the relevance of youth in the new India. It has burnt the bridges with the business class and it feels to no urgency to have the media, at least a section of it, on its side. It has alienated the middle class, and the intellectuals find no sympathy for it. Worse, the people who it vouches to stand for – the aam aadmi – don’t see it as an option any more.

After its miserable performance in the general election and the assembly elections prior to that, it could have tried course correction for a better result in Maharashtra and Haryana. As is normal with all parties in terminal decline it didn’t. Losing elections is one thing, losing the will to fight is quite another. The leadership was not up to the task. When Sonia and Rahul should have been proactive, building confidence among grassroots workers and leaders, they were conspicuous by their absence. While Modi was busy making the assembly election fight his own, Prithviraj Chavan and Bhupinder Singh Hooda were left to fight it alone. This has been the trend over the last two years in the Congress. It refuses to learn its lessons - again, a sign of a party that is beyond redemption.

Where does the party begin the repair, if at all it is serious about it? It is so broken everywhere that repair work won’t help any more. There is no leadership at the top, the self-serving middle level leadership is perennially trapped in factional fights and party’s organizational structure is in tatters. It lacks intellectual clarity on almost every subject of public importance. The party has to rebuild afresh, but how?

Rahul, with his kind of superficial engagement with masses, party workers and absolute lack of communication with segments that matter, obviously is not the one who would lead the regeneration of the party. Politics is not his passion; it’s a burden he has to carry. But beyond him who? Priyanka is better, but she, too, falls short by long. Building strong leaders in states is a solution. With the Gandhi family name no more good enough to attract votes, maybe the Congress would be better placed strengthening its state units energetic leaders like Sachin Pilot. However, for that the party needs to change its Indira Gandhi-time mindset of allowing no big leader to flourish in states.

This should be time for the Congress to democratize itself and change its internal politics of loyalty and patronage. Lack of a strong leader at the top, given the circumstances, should be seen as an opportunity and not a handicap. However, with so many entrenched vested interests is the party capable of it? It’s anybody’s guess. If disenchanted party workers start abandoning the party for other options it would be the most severe blow for the party. This has already happened in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, now bifurcated Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and several other states where the Congress is all but dead. By all indications the party’s worst is not over yet. State-level leaders may form independent outfits and try their luck.

The biggest challenge for the party though is to articulate an ideology. The days of an umbrella formation which creates scope for all outfits are over in Indian politics. That was the Congress till at least 1967 and after that the party has been splintering at regular intervals with an average gap of ten years. This has created presence of regional parties with similar ideology in the states. The Congress is no position to take them on if it does not evolve a new thinking of its own and finds coverts to it. The RSS and Narendra Modi managed that and the results are in the open. With no intellectual strength left in the party – if it’s there it is grossly mismanaged - who will do that for the Grand Old Party?

Right now it seems all is over for the Congress. It has to survive as a regional party with accidental pan-Indian presence.

Updated Date: Oct 19, 2014 18:19:28 IST