In the country's political realm, there were two recent events the outcome of which could have been easily guessed by anyone. First, the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. Second, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting. In UP, the BJP retained power comfortably while the Congress hit its lowest in history. At the CWC meet, according to media reports, the party unanimously requested Sonia Gandhi to continue as its president. Any other outcome of both the events could have been an aberration going by the trend of the political milieu.
The trend is that BJP keeps winning elections while the Congress resorts to some listless pre-and-post-poll rituals. The CWC meet, once an enormously important event, has turned out to be one such ritual with a simple pattern. Before the meeting, speculations about the impending resignation of three Gandhis - Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka - from the party positions would make way to newsrooms, prompting the organisation to customarily rubbish the rumours. This would follow loyalists making an emotional appeal to the First Family to stay back. Then everything would be back to square one.
Sunday's CWC meet called after the party's dismal performance in five states – UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur – apparently witnessed the same drama. Sonia Gandhi has reportedly offered to quit if she has become a liability. Then the meeting unanimously asked her to continue as the party chief. The senior Gandhi was forced to become the president after her son Rahul Gandhi relinquished the post taking moral responsibility for the Congress’s drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It was an aberration in a party where clinging to positions at any cost is normal. Rahul did the right thing and it looked like he was initiating a process of change and making way for a fresh comeback. But little has happened to that effect. He has been reluctant to assume the post again even as continuing to be the de facto president, taking crucial decisions and leading campaigns.
Sycophancy vs Criticism
Only those with a huge quotient of political naivety could believe that the Nehru-Gandhi family stepping aside for a renewed leadership could solve all the problems of the Congress. But the situation is such that their staying back in key posts alone is not helping the party. The Gandhis are not the problem, but the kind of internal politics they have been practising is. They seem to have allowed sycophancy to rule the party, leaving no room for criticism.
Take the case of the so-called G-23, the letter they wrote following the 2019 drubbing was the best thing that happened in the otherwise dead Congress machinery. The call for sweeping changes in the leadership and style of functioning was quite natural in any democratic political party that keeps losing elections. But then the group was treated as rivals who are out to destroy the party.
Sunday's CWC meet should have been a watershed moment. It happened immediately after the party touched its lowest point in electoral history (The party rules just two states now). In other two states (Maharashtra and Jharkhand) it is only a minor partner in the government. The Aam Aadmi Party which swept Congress away in Punjab has already initiated a movement to rise as a pan-India non-BJP alternative. The Congress sees no chance of revival in the upcoming polls in Narendra Modi's Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. If this is not the time to hold the leadership accountable, then when is it going to happen?
The party has announced that it will organise a Chinthan Shivir (brainstorming session) soon after the Parliament session to chalk out a roadmap for the future. With the current psyche, rooted in complacency and sycophancy, the session is likely to end up yet another ritual.
Then there's the internal elections scheduled for August 20. The decision to hold the elections, instead of the nomination process that has left the party dormant in many states over the years, was taken rather reluctantly after the G-23 letter. Now, let's wait for the internal polls to see at least it can throw up some surprise results.