Soon after the Congress was swept aside in the2019 Lok Sabha elections, Jyotiraditya Scindia reportedly spoke up at a Congress Working Committee meeting, expressing the need for introspection and claiming that the party needed to become “future-ready” to take on a 21st century political a juggernaut like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Taking moral responsibility for the party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post on 3 July 2019. After the party’s disastrous performance in UP, Scindia resigned from his post, close on the heels of Rahul Gandhi’s resignation from the Congress president post.
Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as Congress president was hardly a solution, since it only left the party rudderless and even more vulnerable to the byzantine complexity of intra-party factionalism. Various committees and sub-committees were constituted to consider the candidature of affluent candidates for this prestigious post but the entire exercise was in vain. Subsequently, after a long deliberation Congress Working committee, elected Sonia Gandhi as the interim President. However, replacement of ailing Sonia Gandhi in August 2019 as interim president, only confirmed the unwillingness of the party’s well-entrenched cliques to risk looking at life beyond Gandhi’s family. Election of ailing Sonia Gandhi might have held the party together at present but in future it cannot ensure the organisation will work as a cohesive unit. The result will be a gradual atrophying of the party structure and the so-called party high command will be gradually isolated both from its workers and its own leaders as well.
The Family may well have held the party together in gentler times, but in a more frenzied and competitive environment, it no longer seems able to ensure the organisation works as a cohesive unit. The result is a gradual atrophying of the party structure where the ubiquitous “high command” is not only disconnected from its workers, but also from its own leaders.
Dissent has surfaced at various levels at the present state of affairs and some important leaders of the party have openly aired their treacly sentiments. It is an old clamour within the Congress that young guns are often overlooked in favour of veteran stalwarts. Young leaders who have left the party in the past include Ashok Tanwar who even went on to say that the young leaders are “killed in womb” and that the older leaders are “crushing” the young ranks. That was exactly why, these young leaders said, Sonia, kept the post of deputy leader of the Lok Sabha vacant for two years after 2017 even though Scindia was keen on it.
Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s son and ex-MP Sandeep Dikshit said “the current position is that madam (Sonia) Gandhi is an interim president, Mr (Rahul) Gandhi doesn’t want to be president. So let us respect his position and carry on. If the Congress party at some point feels that Mr. Gandhi has to come back or wants to come back, opportunities will always be there. It has happened across other states also.”
He further commented that there are many senior leaders in Congress, some in Rajya Sabha, and some have been former Chief Ministers, even some of the current CMs who are very senior. These leaders fail to come together to elect a new, and young leader capable of leading the party because they probably have another four or five years to go and are scared who will bell the cat. These old guards are benefitting the fruit of this loyalty and cannot imagine any outsider to become congress president. Sandeep Dikshit believes that there are many in the Congress who are capable of leading the party — “at least six-eight”. The name of Jyotiraditya Scindia was also in the list of probable contenders for the post of new congress president.
Backing Dikshit, Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “What Sandeep Dikshit said openly is what dozens of party leaders from across the country are saying privately, including many with responsible positions in the Party. I renew my appeal to CWC to hold leadership elections to energise workers and inspire voters”.
“Some have asked who should vote and for what. I was referring to my earlier call eight months ago for elections among the 10,000 party workers who constitute the “AICC plus PCC delegates” list. These should be for the elected seats in the CWC as well as for the party presidency,” Tharoor added.
Former Union minister Manish Tewari had argued that the the party needs to think about reorienting its economic philosophy which continues to be “fairly socialistic” and bring clarity on the question of secularism and its brand of nationalism.
AICC national spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee admitted as much when she tweeted: “We are again decimated in Delhi. Enough of introspection, time for action now. Inordinate delay in decision making at the top, lack of strategy and unity at the state level, demotivated workers, and no grassroots connect — all are factors. The recent Delhi elections, where only three of the 66 Congress candidates managed to save their deposit, is further evidence of the complete meltdown of the once-dominant force. The road ahead for the party will need more than just introspection.
But there are leaders in the Congress for whom Congress is for Gandhi family only and Gandhi family is the true congress. Sanjay Nirupam responded to Tharoor’s call for elections, saying Rahul Gandhi was the “only leader” who could “save the party.” He tweeted: “It’s inane discussion. No one from outside the family can lead Congress at this juncture. Rahul Gandhi is the only leader who can lead the party and can save it. Other leaders are just a group leader and such leaders at the helm will encourage more groupism. Period!”
There are some young leaders who could not digest the present situation and preferred to part way from the part. “Jyotiraditya Scindia has been upset with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi — not just because of the way they allowed him to be undermined in the party but also because he saw the Congress going nowhere under their leadership,” a Congress leader close to Scindia said to media. This left the likes of a Scindia feeling increasingly frustrated and disenchanted, especially as a weakened high command was no longer willing to intervene and accommodate their interests. Scindia was also upset with the party’s stance on many issues. He openly hailed the government’s move to nullify Article 370. It was also rumoured that Sonia Gandhi’s reluctance to make a young leader CM who might outshine her son and emerge as his challenger was well thought. Obviously, the disgruntled parted with a party he has nurtured for last 18 years.
In a recently published article, Yogendra Yadav, the National President of Swaraj India and a political analyst has opined that the Indian National Congress party registered with the Election Commission, like a majority of political parties in India, appears to be a family-run enterprise. The ruling Nehru-Gandhi family may well be compassionate in its intention. “They are truly liberal in outlook, but feudal by temperament,” the late Jaipal Reddy once said.