Resign with grace

The massive defeat of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections was the result of both failures of the UPA government and weaknesses of the party organisation and leadership.

As it is the worst performance of the Congress party since Independence, both party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi should take full responsibility for the humiliating drubbing in the elections and resign from their posts immediately. There will always be sycophants who will exhort them to continue, but if they want to see the party revive itself, they should hand over power to someone with great credibility and fresh ideas. The ‘sins’ of the Manmohan Singh-headed government which led to its ouster are fairly well-known. The slide of the economy and high inflation, the failure to counter them, high tolerance for corruption and the overall apathy and indecisiveness of the government undermined its image and alienated it from the people. It paid its price and is gone. But the party is there, emaciated and humiliated, at the nadir of its vote share in the country and representation in parliament, and it needs to search for the reasons for its debacle. It failed to guide and pressure the government into action when the latter was in a state of paralysis. Even in the policies that it pursued and emphasised, the party could not connect with the people, especially the younger sections.

The infirmities of the organisation have been obvious for long. The Congress is a highly centralised party. Its unquestioned leadership principle is dynastic, with a family wielding absolute power at the top. This was when the BJP had a leadership change and a person rose from the lowest ranks to be the face of the party in the elections. Lack of democratic functioning sapped the organisation of energy and deprived it of leadership at lower levels. The quality of the top leadership and those around it is open to serious questioning. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi is lacking in political instincts and appears naive. The sheepish grin on his face on a “pretty” bad day on Friday said it all. The party’s campaign, which he led, was grossly deficient in ideas, strategy, methods and reach in comparison with the BJP’s campaign led by Narendra Modi.

Even in its worst moment, the Congress, being a 130 year-old organisation, is the party with the widest geographical presence and influence among all sections of population. There is the need for a strong opposition to the BJP. Only if the Congress reinvents itself with new ideas, strategies and inspiring leadership at all levels can it hope to stop its decline.

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