No Gandhi or non-Gandhi chief can save Congress if it stays in denial of New India
Congress has failed to embrace its rising and fiery nationalism and today, the party has lost touch with the ground so comprehensively that it fails to see that nationalism sweeping through even the urban, English-educated youngsters, a class it had created.
It is that rare time of the year when reporters covering the Congress beat get to work these days. One Gandhi has threatened to vacate the party president’s chair and its cushion is pregnant with the possibility of another Gandhi.
So, Congress reporters and commentators coming out of their gnawing disguised unemployment tend to overcompensate by speculating on a thousand palace intrigues and theories.
Which Gandhi will be better for Congress?
Will Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Young Turks’ — nevermind Rahul himself is 50 now and his peer like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot have rebelled — finally get their way over Sonia Gandhi’s old guard?
Will does family loyalist Ahmed Patel hold the key to party leadership?
Will Priyanka Gandhi Vadra get a bigger role and eclipse Rahul?
In the hollow clatter of this speculation, two most crucial aspects will be ignored.
First, that the Congress has no leader today who can take on Narendra Modi, or even Amit Shah or Yogi Adityanath. It is because the party has not created an environment to nurture true leadership.
The Gandhis exist at the top without the test of merit. Through decades of savvy marketing, they have successfully created the fear and illusion that the Family is irreplaceable, that it is the glue which holds the party together.
By either driving out its best mass leaders from the states like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Himanta Biswa Sarma or dwarfing existent ones like Amarinder Singh and Ashok Chavan, the Gandhis have ensured that their reign continues.
Second, the party is still in deep denial of a new India. In that state of denial, forget the current Gandhis, even the original, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, would not have been able to pull the party up from this morass.
India has changed profoundly in the last decade. Perhaps irreversibly.
Congress has failed to embrace its rising and fiery nationalism. Today, the party has lost touch with the ground so comprehensively that it fails to see that nationalism sweeping through even the urban, English-educated youngsters, a class it had created.
By mocking nationalism at every step from the post-Uri surgical strikes to Doklam and Balakot to Galwan, the Congress has cut off its own feet. Rahul Gandhi went and stood in solidarity with the worst separatist elements in JNU.
Along with nationalism, Congress also managed to cede the Hindu space. The party had egged on minority politics for electoral gains to a point that sprung a strong counter-strain of Hindu identity politics. And the Gandhi family villainises the latter while being comfortable with the former, turning even Hindus on the fence against the party.
On corruption, 10 years of UPA has done damage for the next at least 20 years. Unless there is a complete change in leadership, most Indians will find it difficult to trust Congress with public wealth.
To top it, the party has forsaken its claim on its own greatest contribution to modern India: liberalisation. There are two dubious reasons for this.
One is that liberalisation was ushered in by two non-Gandhis Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh and none in the family can take credit for it. The other being the Nehruvian socialist DNA that runs through the family: a mai-baap sarkar, electoral doles, an unelected NGO cabal virtually running the country…
Rahul Gandhi has still not learnt how to not talk down to poverty. Any tragedy befalling a Dalit is legit photo-op for him, only if the incident happens in a BJP-ruled state and perpetrators are not Muslims. Then visiting that family suddenly becomes haram.
His speeches are patronising towards the poor, and the poor of this millennium resent that. Millions of them have moved to the neo-middle class thanks ironically to liberalisation. They work for a better life, browse new mobile phone models. They value their struggle. An overwhelming majority of them are not the defeatist, begging lot that Rahul Gandhi perhaps wishes them to be.
Lastly, Congress has to find a way to respect merit and hard work. All this resignation and reluctance drama is going out to the new India as just that: drama to save the seat for one’s undeserving children.
Unless Congress begins to understand and embrace the new India, no leadership jugglery can save it.
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