6 April 2020 08:30 AM



So Where is The Congress?

Where is the Congress?

NEW DELHI: They can be seen wandering around Delhi’s famous social get togethers, blank, worried, and not even bothering to put a brave face any longer. The arrogance of power, in the Congress particularly, has gone and when asked what their plan for revival is the answer is almost uniform: “what revival, where is the revival, who is there to revive us?”

Senior leaders admit that they have no strategy, and the more brutally honest agree that the party does not have a leadership. One takes a senior editor aside to ask, “what should we do?” And the long sermon worries him even more, as he does not know who to communicate the advice to. A second at a dinner in an industrialist’s house recently agrees that Rahul Gandhi cannot lead the party, “but what do we do?” The question carries with it a plaintive, “how do we skirt this leadership” undercurrent that really is the essence of the Congress party’s dilemma.

How do we get around Rahul Gandhi? Is the question with the corollary, “as he certainly has decided not to step down.” So there is this quintessential issue facing the Congress leaders who all know that Rahul Gandhi cannot lead and hence cannot deliver, and yet are unable to bell the cat ---in this instance Congress president Sonia Gandhi---and convince her that her son should retire from politics.

The faint attempt to do so after the Lok Sabha debacle was crushed at the onset by Sonia Gandhi and her managers. The so called introspection meeting dissolved into an assertion of faith in her leadership, and the claims by several leaders that they would lay bare the facts and through the process her son’s failure, came to nought.

The Congress president has almost completely stopped travelling, and has limited her role to a mentor who is there to keep the flock together. Her son’s travels have ceased almost completely as he is unable to attract the people, or be convincing in what little he has to say. He has finally woken up to the Delhi elections, and visited the Rangpur Pahadi slums in sotuh Delhi where hundreds of tenements were demolished.

"They have won this time, but if they want to use the bulldozer again, let them drive it over my body," he told the media after a quick visit to the area. But his words did not impress his party members who have heard him several times before, and have given up on his ability to follow through the rhetoric with action.

There has been no attempt by the party leadership to mobilise the Congress through mass initiatives. There is instead an almost tenacious reluctance in the Nehru-Gandhi family to delegate responsibility to other leaders, most of whom have virtually stopped speaking for fear of being publicly reprimanded by the Congress president every now and again. The result is that the entire senior leadership of the Congress is sitting at home, attending Parliament if they are MPs, and gracing Delhi’s cocktail and dinner circuit in the evenings.

As a former Minister laughed and said, “well we have little else to do.”

The party is not activated even for elections with Jammu and Kashmir being left entirely to Ghulam Nabi Azad’s own efforts. There was little support from the First Family, and less from the party that was not mobilised to help the local unit fight the elections. This was quite in contrast to the RSS that flooded the state with its cadres to battle the elections on all fronts.

It has become a Catch-22 situation for the party.The leaders know that the Congress will disintegrate if Sonia Gandhi is not there to lead them. And she will not be unless the party accepts Rahul Gandhi as the leader. But the Congress leaders also know, and say so openly now, that if she and Rahul Gandhi remain the party is unlikely to move into the Opposition space in real terms. “We will not be fighting fit,”said a particularly disillusioned party member visibly upset about the paralysis and the inability of the party to cope.

Interestingly senior leaders who have the ear of the First Family, like CP Joshi, AK Antony and others spend their time convincing Sonia and Rahul Gandhi that the Congress defeat was not as severe as it is being made out. They recite vote percentages from states and specific constituencies to make the point, and insist at party meetings, that the Congress revival is on the cards. Dont worry Madam, they say, Narendra Modi will last only for five years, the Congress party will be back.

Back how? ask the more intelligent Congress leaders. “By sitting back and twiddling our thumbs?” asked a senior leader from UP. There is no debate or discourse within the party, they point out, just the usual sycophancy that is making for “complete complacency” at a time when the Congress should be on the streets.

The demoralisation is so deep that even the customary odd call for Priyanka Vadra to take over the reins has stopped. Asked about this a Congress leader laughed,”this is all meaningless isnt it?”

Meanwhile Delhi’s Page 3 hosts can be sure of Congress members attendance at the various winter events these days. There is no move to call a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, or a general session of the All India Congress party, or for that matter to democratise the party through serious elections. It is all at a standstill while Antony and the rest insist, it is all good, and the Congress can never die.