What ails the Congress Party?

“Damned if we do, damned, if we don’t” This is the situation the Congress leaders all over the country find themselves in today. With the resignation of Rahul Gandhi as the Party President, it is a pity that a party which claims no dearth of capable leaders to take on the captainship of the party, is not able to appoint a permanent President, leading to a vacuum and a crisis which is developing day by day at a very crucial moment in the history of post-independent India.

There are many parties which are out of power for several years and even decades but there has never been any crisis at the top which points to the fact that without power, Congress cannot survive for long. It is not that there are no capable leaders to take the reins of the party but the problem is, all said and done, none of them has the pan-India appeal and recognition, as the Gandhi family has. But that may not be an impediment to steer the party from the bottom it has reached now.

The so-called leaders occupying powerful positions in the party are there not because of their support among the people but primarily due to their loyalty to the family. If a leader with a support base, though restricted to one or two states, comes to occupy the position at the top, these leaders will feel threatened.

The Congress leaders know very well that they cannot rely on Gandhi family for winning the elections but only regional leaders and negative votes against the incumbent government alone are winning the elections, if at all they win any, like in the case of Punjab and Chattisgarh. Even in Madhya Pradesh, the victory margin was precariously low, taking into consideration several years of anti-incumbency. All the electoral victories of the Congress party starting from 1980 onwards at the centre were on negative votes or sympathy wave, except for 2009 which was again due to a lack of credible face from the opposition.

However, now that the nation has a strong contender with a pan-India appeal, even dwarfing that of Indira Gandhi, the chances of the Congress party, with the Family at the helm of affairs, taking the party to the path of victory on their strength is next to impossible.

The problem for the party is no regional leader is acceptable to all other members of the party. There are strong contenders in Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and even Capt. Amarinder Singh but other leaders will never allow a person with a mass-base to lead the party, fearing for their own feature. This is the dilemma the party faces itself in.

But it is the right time for the young Turks in the party to take a call on the feature of the party. If they revolt against the leadership, certainly there will be a vertical split and the split may spread to all the states but it will help the party to weed out the deadwood and rejuvenate the party towards the path of growth. If the family continues to keep the powers with them, then it will slowly sink into oblivion. The younger generations within the party obviously realize this and that is why they are coming out in the open and taking a stand against the stated position of the party but this is not enough.

Even if a person from other than the Family is appointed or selected or elected as the Party President, the real power will be vested with the Family alone and unless this is changed, the party cannot hope to grow at all.

Take for instance the BJP, wherein the post of President of the party and Prime Ministerial face are different and there is no friction over this. Any young leader who might be appointed as the President of the party will naturally hope to be the Prime Minister if, under his leadership, Congress wins any future elections to the Parliament.

With Rahul Gandhi proven as a failure, if he stakes claim to the post of Prime Minister solely based on the Family name, it will necessarily create tussle at the top and the Family knows this very well. For this reason alone, the Family will not allow any capable leader to become the President and they would prefer only a person without any mass-base and who will be loyal to the Family to take up the post.

The likelihood of any young and capable leader taking over as the party president is very bleak and I will not be surprised if, within a year or two, the party faces a revolt against the leadership and splits vertically all over the country. When, not if that happens, the only other pan-Indian party will be reduced to what remains of the Communist parties today. The moot question is whether the rebels will float their own party or join the only party where they can hope to grow.

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