Active Stocks
Fri Apr 12 2024 15:57:45
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 163.50 -1.00%
  1. NTPC share price
  2. 362.00 -0.32%
  1. ITC share price
  2. 430.10 -1.56%
  1. HDFC Bank share price
  2. 1,518.90 -1.10%
  1. State Bank Of India share price
  2. 766.75 -1.57%
Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  The Congress has to mend it ways to remain in the fray
BackBack

The Congress has to mend it ways to remain in the fray

If the Congress, too, corrects its current flaws, it may have better days in the future

Congress has more than 650 MLAs around the country, and about 120 million voters supported it in the previous Lok Sabha elections. (Photo: PTI)Premium
Congress has more than 650 MLAs around the country, and about 120 million voters supported it in the previous Lok Sabha elections. (Photo: PTI)

A twin blow to the already enfeebled Congress party has come from Himachal Pradesh. First, the grand old party’s official Rajya Sabha candidate, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, suffered a shocking defeat. Second, Vikramaditya Singh, son of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh who had long been the face of Congress in this hill state, resigned. Singh led the six MLAs who crossed the floor in support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate. For now, the party has persuaded Singh to withdraw his resignation, but the six MLAs who cross-voted have been disqualified. Even if the Congress weathers this storm, it will find no respite from the political forces that are hell-bent on proving that the party is now but a relic of the past.

They forget that politics is like a game of snakes and ladders, not a fairy tale.

To make my point, let me rewind 40 years, to 1984. In the elections held that year, Congress won 414 seats, while BJP won only two. Had anyone predicted then that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who faced criticism from all around, would become the country’s prime minister within 12 years, while Rajiv, who shone like a star, would lose his aura in just four? Morarji Desai and Chaudhary Charan Singh, who were pushed by Indira Gandhi to form a party of their own, also got a chance to serve as prime ministers. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, who felt offended during Indira’s early days, became president of the country. Vishwanath Pratap Singh, whom Rajiv had insulted and removed from the party, was elected prime minister right after Rajiv.

Now, let’s talk about the Congress. The party’s vote bank has been mostly dwindling since 1989, but it is still in power in three states. It is a stakeholder in the Jharkhand government and, until two months back, had a say in the ruling alliance of Bihar. It is the largest opposition party in 13 states. Though the party is antiquated, its organization exists in every district of the country. The party has more than 650 MLAs around the country, and about 120 million voters supported it in the previous Lok Sabha elections. It ranked second in 196 Lok Sabha seats.

Do you still believe the Congress is out of the game?

As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, he is still the most powerful and popular leader of the Congress. But if the Congress’s run of defeats continues, the party will either disintegrate or will have to find a new leader. The Nehru-Gandhi family will need to overcome their historical vulnerabilities to avoid this. They will have to find a fresh way of communication and new messengers. In Indira’s time, the Congress was a party of powerful satraps. It had powerful leaders in every state who could manage both power and organization. Her descendants are becoming victims of the heroism Indira pioneered.

Rahul, like his father, was a hesitant entrant to politics. He was expected to make a serious attempt to fix this error. He couldn’t. When the party won power in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, Jyotiraditya Scindia should have been appointed chief minister, but the elderly Kamal Nath got the position instead. He couldn’t finish his term. Rajasthan was in a similar state. Along with Madhya Pradesh, the Congress party won the elections in Rajasthan. Sachin Pilot was the president of the state congress committee back then. He was marginalized, and power was handed over to Ashok Gehlot, who was doing excellent work as general secretary-organization in New Delhi. The tragedy did not end here. The same two elders were made the party’s faces in recent elections, and the party suffered a deadly blow shortly before the Lok Sabha elections. Rahul still has time to rid the party of “old loyalists" and to appoint new commanders.

BJP does this without hesitating. The saffron party’s guts compelled the former chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Phadnavis, to accept the position of deputy chief minister to gain power. Nitish Kumar is the next in the series. The Congress attempted a similar experiment in Telangana and was successful in obtaining power. Why doesn’t Rahul bet on more leaders like Revanth Reddy (now chief minister of Telangana)?

As far as the coalition is concerned, the party will need to be flexible at times. BJP had a tradition of not appointing outsiders as chief ministers. Nonetheless, rather than sticking to this tradition, the party backed Himanta Biswa Sarma and Eknath Shinde when it needed to do so. If the Congress, too, corrects its current flaws, it may have better days in the future. However, now it is too late for the next Lok Sabha election.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. Views are personal.

Unlock a world of Benefits! From insightful newsletters to real-time stock tracking, breaking news and a personalized newsfeed – it's all here, just a click away! Login Now!

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Published: 04 Mar 2024, 06:00 AM IST
Next Story footLogo
Recommended For You
Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App