The fall and fall of Congress

The fall and fall of Congress

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Credit: PTI Photo

The Congress party is where it was three months ago, and where it has been for years now, refusing to look at its broken image in the mirror. The issue, of course, is not about the image but about substance, and the party does not seem willing to recognise, much less confront, the issues that pose a threat to its existence. The poor performance in Bihar, where it not only lost most of the seats it contested but brought its ally also down with it, is the latest in a series of its failures. It is not capable of winning elections on its own in most states. It has also shown, after UP and now Bihar, that it cannot help other parties to win but can damage them, too. It has also been unable to retain the states it won, as Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh showed, and Rajasthan nearly did. The party has been losing MLAs, leaders and workers in every state. 

Even in such a dire situation, it has not shown an inclination to make an honest examination of its failures and to address them. There have been demands within the party and dissenting voices that have sought action and a course correction from the leadership. The letter written in August by 23 leaders to the top leadership calling for such action had no impact. They were sidelined in the party. One of those who wrote the letter, Kapil Sibal, has again raised the same issues after the Bihar debacle. He was snubbed by two senior leaders and has been told to shut up or quit. Senior leader P Chidambaram has joined the ranks of those publicly airing concerns about the party’s organisational weakness.

The reasons for the continued decline are not unknown. Congress is today more a collection of individuals attached to the Gandhi family, which wants to keep the reins of the party with itself, than a political party. Rahul Gandhi resigned as its president, but he is still the top leader, though even after many years he is still out of his depth in politics. The party’s organisation has frayed and weakened and does not exist in many parts of the country. There is serious ideological confusion and on many issues like the scrapping of Article 370, economic policies and national security matters, different views are expressed in public by different leaders. It does not always state its positions clearly and consistently, and sometimes gives the impression that it aspires to be a BJP minus Modi. It is internally dead, without dynamism and democracy. A party that is not taken seriously as an alternative to the ruling party or even as a credible opposition has much to worry about its future.