At The Cross-Roads

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 16 Dec 2017 12:33:18

Mr. Rahul Gandhi is beginning his innings with two critical elections offering the party a collective sobering experience. How will he explain the phenomenon to his party’s rank and file? What kind of justification will he devise of the party’s showing at the hustings? Does he have the intellectual wherewithal to achieve that kind of exercise that would convince the party and the nation that things would get sorted out shortly?

“Rahul Gandhi is our last hope, our only hope. If he does not take over, we will insist upon Priyanka ji (Gandhi-Vadra) to take over ...”
-- An excerpt of a bigger statement of a senior Congressman a few months ago when he suspected that the change of guard in the party was taking too long for inexplicable reasons.

THIS defines the sense of helplessness the Congress rank and file feel about the leadership issue in the party. This is not an isolated statement; this is a widespread sentiment across the country’s oldest political party.


This also explains the sense of elation the party experienced the moment Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as President of the party was announced. The talk of Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s elevation had been going on in the party nearly for two years. Meanwhile, suggestions also emerged to see if there could be somebody else to take over the reins of the party. That suggestion was turned down unanimously and the person who made it was made to look like a bloody fool. For, as everybody interprets the reality, the Congress rank and file cannot think of anybody else as the party’s chief. Everybody wants a Gandhi.


Mr. Rahul Gandhi, too, is the sixth of the Nehru-Gandhi family to head the Congress party. There were other people also who led the party with distinction. The latest of such an example was when Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao headed the party as well as the Government. Those were the most difficult times post the assassination of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi and a tenuous majority that became possible only through manipulations.

Only a man of the nerve and verve of Mr. Narasimha Rao could head the party in those terrible times.
Despite that, the party craved for a Gandhi to take over. Hence came Mrs. Sonia Gandhi who happened to lead the party for 19 long years between 1998 and 2017. True, the party was in power for ten of those 19 years, and that gave Mrs. Sonia Gandhi certain authenticity. But those who understood that the party’s internal processes were getting decomposed surreptitiously knew how the organisation was sinking invariably to newer lows every passing day. That was Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s ‘contribution’ -- and her son’s.


Then came the elections and the nation saw the emergence of Mr. Narendra Modi as an undisputed leader of the nation. As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) kept riding the rising wave of popularity -- thanks to its method and manner and the national need -- the Congress party kept sinking ever lower under the mother-son duo.


Despite this, the Congress rank and file have insisted upon Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. They predicted a tremendous turnaround of the party’s fortunes in the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat legislative elections. The exit polls have shown things the other way round. Yet, we must wait for the official outcome to say anything about it. As Mr. Rahul Gandhi is slated to take over the party’s presidentship officially today (December 16, 2017), it is necessary to take a look at the party in general and to assess if it can pass baptism by fire under the new leader.


Imagine a scenario when there is not a single Gandhi left to lead the 131 year-old party. Who will lead? And will the party stay together, or get shredded into countless splinters headed by as many people of suspect merit?


It is this scenario that frightens Congress rank and file today, as one realises through conversations and interactions with people at various levels of the party’s organisation at this juncture. Everybody knows, beyond any shade of doubt, that if there is no Gandhi around to lead the party, the whole thing will at once explode and implode.


That is the reason a senior party functionary said, in effect, that Mr. Rahul Gandhi was the party’s last and only hope. Such people treat Mrs. Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra as a standby leader. They might have seen her in some political action only occasionally, yet most are ready to attach very many virtues to her persona. By so doing, they create a make-believe situation that Mrs. Priyanka Gandhi, too, is politically adept, practically wise and intellectually qualified to lead the organisation that started a democratically organised dissent in the country 131 years ago.


Thus, psychologically, the Congress rank and file have been trapped in a syndrome whose definition is not difficult to be framed. Such a stunting of intellect has been achieved organisationally!


It is obvious that Mr. Rahul Gandhi is beginning his innings with two critical elections offering the party a collective sobering experience. How will he explain the phenomenon to his party’s rank and file? What kind of justification will he devise of the party’s showing at the hustings? Does he have the intellectual wherewithal to achieve that kind of exercise that would convince the party and the nation that things would get sorted out shortly? When the Congress organisation is getting torn asunder, will Mr. Gandhi be able to hold things together?


These questions do not have easy answers -- at least for the Congress rank and file, though the common people know that the gentleman does have none of the merits mentioned above. The people know that he does not own a personality that would offer the party true leadership based on solid intelligence honed by hefty political experience and a robust sense of history -- of the party and of the nation.


It was not without reason that some BJP leaders felt like celebrating Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s ascendency to the top post. Their premise was simple: When the Congress is being led by a young man who has demonstrated no signs of youth in the past many years except immaturity and no credible leadership quotient, then his organisation would keep giving the BJP all the reasons to feel good about itself without any solid opposition in a real sense. The sarcasm in this thinking may not be appreciated by those who wish the nation to have a healthy democracy. Yet, the realism in that sarcastic comment cannot be missed.


Those -- like this scribe -- who have learned great lessons of history from the Congress party and based their judgement on how its phenomenally great leaders once led the nation’s political process feel sorry that the Congress organisation has come to such a pass when it is starving on the leadership front, that it has no alternatives whatsoever to the Nehru-Gandhi component. This poverty, as one must recognise, is also an integral part of the Congress party’s history. For, historically, the Nehru-Gandhi clan established its hold on the organisation by promoting sycophancy and rewarding yes-sayers. They did not realise in those times that they were only beginning to dig the party’s grave slowly but surely.
Is that long process entering a new chapter now?