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All is not lost, yet

Highlights

The party has a new, existential problem, what with a triumphal BJP working to demolish Jawaharlal Nehru’s image and ideology and appropriating Congressmen

The party has a new, existential problem, what with a triumphal BJP working to demolish Jawaharlal Nehru’s image and ideology and appropriating Congressmen

Two observations by Congress president Sonia Gandhi marked the party’s 130th Foundation Day on Sunday. That, on losing Jharkhand in this month’s assembly polls, the party would allow the new government of BJP its “full term.” And that it is for ‘others’ who won the Jammu and Kashmir polls to form the next government. A party that has ruled the longest, often disturbing weak governments whenever it could, has acknowledged nil options to do anything otherwise. Established in then Bombay on December 28, 1885, the Congress has seen its political fortunes plummet, with no sign of either introspection or recovery.

After its Lok Sabha strength was reduced from 206 to a mere 44, it has lost a string of assembly elections. Never before has it been so bereft of focus and leadership as it is now. During earlier setbacks, Indira Gandhi (1977-79) and Rajiv (1990) had kept hopes alive. Sonia simply does not inspire that - her son Rahul, even less. Both have failed as votegetters. The worse is that no alternative leadership is emerging. Sonia, said to be ailing, and Rahul will not, and perhaps cannot, quit for a new set of leaders. There-is-no-alternative (TINA) factor is at work. Perhaps, this explains why Digvijaya Singh wants Rahul to take charge of the party “full-time.”

We know he is not talking in terms of hours and days, but of the need for Rahul’s focus. The question is, doesn’t Rahul know this for the past decade he has been a lawmaker and “full time” Congressman and the party’s vice-president for close to two years? Has a series of electoral defeats not taught him what he should do? It is time for Rahul to take a bold stand – and not just talk of family’s ‘sacrifices’. Ushering in Priyanka also will not do. Indira, whose look-alike she is supposed to be, is part of history. We are in a different era and the party must tailor itself to its challenges. The party has a new, existential problem, what with a triumphal BJP working to demolish Jawaharlal Nehru’s image and ideology and appropriating Congressmen like Vallabhbhai Patel. Madan Mohan Malaviya, honoured with a Bharat Ratna, was a four-time Congress president. Yet, this is not the end of the road for India’s Grand Old Party.

It still has the grassroots support. The parties that broke away from it and retained the ‘Congress’ tag have proved to be inadequate and time-servers. An aggressive, programme-oriented fight back is needed. For the Congress, there is Gandhi, the Mahatma, to fall back upon. Prime Minister Modi swears by Gandhi, but the BJP and its ideological affiliates are doing all to demolish Gandhi. They are glorifying his assassin with books, films and statues. A Congress response to this campaign is grossly delayed. This is not the time for the Congress to lie low.

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