The signs have been visible for some time now. But it's now evident that there is a fissure within Congress. The few sensible voices left in the party are worried about the fact that the grand old party is losing its way, and short of a full-scale rebellion, there is every indication that the party is ripped down the middle.
The interesting thing about Congress’ latest crisis is that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has so far been seen intrinsic to the survival of Congress, is coming under challenge from some of its senior and top-level leaders. Such a thing in a party, which functions as the Nehru-Gandhi family's fiefdom, would have been unthinkable. But the unthinkable is slowly happening, which tells us that a realisation is seeping slowly into the party that its survival may not be intrinsically linked to the Nehru-Gandhi family, and what may sound even more heretical — that a section of the party is coming slowly to a conclusion that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty might even be inimical to the party’s survival.
The indications are unmistakable. Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday that it's important not to demonise Narendra Modi all the time and his governance model is not a “complete negative story”. This is no less than sacrilegious.
Ramesh, who held the ministries of rural development and drinking water and sanitation in the UPA government, said, “He (Modi) talks in a language that connects him with the people. Unless we recognise that he is doing things which people recognise and which have not been done in the past, we are not going to be able to confront this guy.”
“Also, if you are going to demonise him all the time, you are not going to be able to confront him,” Ramesh had said, according to a PTI report.
Ramesh gave the example of Modi’s welfare schemes for the poor which have not only connected him to a vast section of the electorate but also benefitted him in many ways. The fact that BJP got more than 30 percent popular votes during the Lok Sabha polls was largely due to the work done by the prime minister, the Congress leader said.
“In 2019, all of us in the political discourse made fun of one or two of his programmes, but it has turned out in all electoral studies that the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (cooking gas cylinders) is one single programme which has been able to connect him with crores and crores of women and given him the political traction which he didn’t have in 2014,” said the Karnataka MP.
“Now, if we are going to run this down and say this is all hocus pocus and say these are wrong numbers, we are not going to confront this guy,” he was quoted, as saying.
Ramesh’s words found echo in another senior Congress leader’s comments. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, one of the party’s legal eagles and part of P Chidambaram’s legal team, wrote on Twitter that demonising Modi is a wrong and counter-productive strategy.
Always said demonising #Modi wrong. No only is he #PM of nation, a one way opposition actually helps him. Acts are always good, bad & indifferent—they must be judged issue wise and nt person wise. Certainly, #ujjawala scheme is only one amongst other good deeds. #Jairamramesh
— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) August 23, 2019
We must also note the recent comments by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, another Congress veteran and among the very few mass leaders left in the party. The former chief minister of Haryana, a state that shortly goes to the polls, told a recent rally that his party has “lost its way” in opposing the abrogation of Article 370.
Addressing a rally in Rohtak, Hooda said: “When the government does something right, I always support it. Many of my colleagues opposed the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370. They have lost their way. It is not the same Congress as it used to be.”
Bhupinder's comment — that echoes the comment made earlier by his son Deepender Hooda who also backed the abrogation of the contentious constitutional provision that gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status — indicates desperation to reclaim the space that Congress has been rapidly vacating to the BJP.
And here, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has been making one mistake after another. Members of the dynasty — be it incumbent party resident Sonia Gandhi, former party chief Rahul Gandhi or his sister Priyanka Vadra Gandhi — have been fast vacating the political space to Modi who has been all too glad to take it. Under the tutelage of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the Congress’ chief ideological plank has come to mean anti-Modism.
This anti-Modism, or the desperation to oppose the prime minister in whatever he does and relentlessly focus on vilifying him — as Rahul tried during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and suffered another electoral humiliation — has meant that the Congress has readily been pushed to a corner where it cannot identify itself with any of the causes that move the masses — be it nationalism, economy, or corruption. Since Modi has captured these issues, and Congress must necessarily oppose him, it has ended up creating a situation where the Congress finds itself almost inevitably on the wrong side of public opinion.
As long as the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty could win votes and influence masses, the Congress chieftains would pledge their allegiance to the family. But as Rahul loses in Amethi, a signal that the dynasty is losing its appeal even in its pocket boroughs, the chieftains have turned restless.
There’s no sign, however, that the dynasty is reading the tea leaves. Even as senior leaders are stressing on the importance of not running a negative campaign against Modi, party president Sonia is continuing in the same vein — demonising Modi.
Addressing an event on Thursday to mark Rajiv Gandhi’s 75th birth anniversary, Sonia once again accused Modi of using power “to create an atmosphere of fear or threaten and scare.”
Her reference must have been to the CBI arrest of P Chidambaram, an issue flagged also by her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka. However, to the larger public, Chidambaram’s predicament is the inevitable result of his actions committed during his years as Union finance minister. Sonia or Rahul fulminations have no takers. What’s more? Their stand in favour of a leader who is perceived as “tainted” in the public eye and opposing Modi in acting against graft, places the Gandhi dynasty in an uneasy spot. Other Congress leaders understand this, and hence the restiveness on display. That said, a million mutinies against the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty might be the only way for the party to survive.
Updated Date: Aug 23, 2019 17:18:50 IST