Congress was dead in 1969
Indian National Congress, (INC) once led by powerful leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Bose, which gave us freedom from the British, was dead in 1969 when Indira Gandhi split the great party and formed the Indira Congress.
Indian National Congress, (INC) once led by powerful leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Bose, which gave us freedom from the British, was dead in 1969 when Indira Gandhi split the great party and formed the Indira Congress. And what has been ruling the country since then was the ghost of the INC.
Indira Congress was successful in presenting itself as the heir-apparent and authoritative spokesperson of the nation. After the 1967 debacle when the Congress lost power in most of the States, Mrs Gandhi gave a strong leadership to the party and the nation and she was, in fact, called India’s Iron Lady. After her assassination in 1984, her son Rajiv Gandhi succeeded her. He tried to bring in some changes in the administration and also liberalisation of economy to some extent. The decline and fall of the Congress started with the Bofors scam and the subsequent assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. At the end of the 10 year-rule of Dr Manmohan Singh, the Congress was at the nadir of its influence in national politics. And the party was humiliated in the 2014 general elections winning just 44 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha.
With the Exit Poll results of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana showing complete rout of the Congress party in both the States, the party is in power only in four smaller states of Kerala, Assam, Meghalaya and Chhattisgarh and also in Karnataka where it was decimated in the Lok Sabha elections. When these States go to polls next time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have realised his dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat.
Is it time to write the obituary of the Congress? Perhaps not. History is always kind to the Congress. In the 1977 elections, after the Emergency, the Congress suffered a severe beating, but bounced back in 1980 with a bigger majority. Again in 1999, the Congress won just 112 seats in the Lok Sabha paving the way for the BJP to form a stable government. History repeated itself in 2004 and the Congress came back to power and formed the UPA government in alliance with more than a dozen smaller parties. In 2009, the party improved its strength by winning 206 seats on its own, but the rule of next five years was riddled with major scams like CWG, 2G Spectrum, Coal Blocks allocation and so on. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself was named in the last two scams as he was in-charge of the concerned ministries when the scam took place.
Though Dr Singh was known for his honesty and integrity, he was very ineffective as Prime Minister. As is well known, Congress President Sonia Gandhi was always the power behind the throne.
After 10 years of Congress misrule, people wanted a change and a strong leader to lead the country. Between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, there was no comparison – Modi proved his leadership as the Chief Minister of Gujarat for three terms, whereas Rahul Gandhi had no administrative experience having been seen always holding the saree tail of his mother.
The 2014 Lok Sabha election was a fight between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi and not between the BJP and the Congress. Even in the Maharashtra and Haryana elections it was Modi who led the election campaign and won these two states for the BJP. There is no one else who can win the elections for the BJP. There are too many leaders but none like Modi. Therein lies some hope for the Congress and an answer to the question whether the Congress can recover, revive and regroup its forces, and probably come back to power. Therein lies also an answer to the question whether it is time to write the obituary of the Congress. Judging by experience, it would be hasty to write off the Congress. May be after five or even 10 years in the wilderness, the Congress might still emerge as an alternative to Modi’s authoritarian rule. Nothing underscores the party‘s bankruptcy more than its dependence on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
Despite the recent humiliations, the party’s confidence in the Gandhis remains undiminished. The failure of the leadership is patently obvious. Nevertheless, their authority and supremacy have not been seriously challenged within the party. Since the days of Nehru, the party didn’t allow any new leader to emerge. Be that as it may, the principal threat to the party comes from its inability to allow able and popular leaders to rise from within. Strong, locally rooted regional leaders could dramatically improve its state-level prospects (like YSR in two straight elections), which in turn can spread to national politics. After the election debacle both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi should have resigned accepting moral responsibility as a natural course.
Democratic parties elsewhere function that way. The BJP is considered, at present at least, the best bet for the country. No doubt, Narendra Modi has given a strong leadership to the country, besides fulfilling some of the promises made during the elections. And after decades of broken promises and lies, the overwhelming majority of the population is not inclined to vote for Congress, even as the lesser evil.