Congress has to reinvent itself
The Congress should urgently undergo a metamorphosis to prevent sliding into being anachronistic.
The habitual heart burn erupts in Congress. Not so uncommon brickbats from within are obvious after losing two state governments in a round of Assembly polls. Coming against a backdrop of humiliating defeat in 2014 it is much more perplexing.
The party that ruled the country for five and a half decades in nearly seven decades of independent India is passing through its worst turbulent times. The electoral decline is deeper. From a peak of winning as much as 48 per cent of vote share in the elections held as an aftermath of Indira Gandhi‘s assassination to less than 20 per cent in 2014 , the electoral decline of Congress is bewildering for the party admirers.
Though it’s too early and rather unrealistic to write an obituary for the party as the BJP wants the nation to be ‘Congress mukth’, the sharp erosion and failure to revive in any significant manner demand thorough diagnosis rather than a mere cosmetic therapy . Political scientists earlier used to describe Indian polity as Congress centred and the centrifugal and centripetal forces operating with reference to Congress define the nature and content of politics in the country. Many non Congress parties were after all the allotropic forms of the parent party some of them were even subsumed into it. But, such is not the situation now. The challenger for the party at the Centre has an altogether different ideological DNA making the retrieval of the lost ground for the Congress rather difficult.
Due to its pervasive national foot print, the Congress was the obvious choice for the people and the smaller parties whenever they were disenchanted with the BJP governments. But with the eclipse of the Congress as a front runner in many states and weakening national footprint, it fears that it may no longer enjoy the luxury of being the natural beneficiary of anti incumbency at the national level and in many states too.
The first family of the party headed the Congress governments most of the time. Thus, it is difficult to interpret whether the supreme family is an asset or a liability for the party. Notwithstanding this dilemma, the Congress has to foster strong regional leadership. The party should free itself from political cronies who yield undesirable influence on the leadership making it take unpopular and politically disastrous decisions.
The Congress cannot revive unless it reinvents its social moorings. The party during its heyday used to be identified as the messiah of marginalised and minority communities. Thus it politically represented the broad social coalition of diverse populace. But it no longer enjoys such a status. The anti Sikh riots of 1980s and the demolition of Babri Masjid when it was in power alienated minorities from the Congress. The emergence of identity politics deprived Congress of its traditional support among Scheduled Castes. The BJP is making serious inroads into the tribal vote while parties like SP, BSP, RJD and JD (U) have poached the Congress vote making it a marginal player in the respective states. The unbridled path of liberalisation it embraced after 1991 distanced the Congress from the poor.
Despite relatively younger leadership, Congress lagged behind Modi led BJP in forging connect with the aspirational India. The Congress should urgently undergo a metamorphosis to prevent sliding into being anachronistic.