Congress and the Opposition

The Congress has decided that it is Sonia Gandhi, not Rahul, who will lead the party at least till the next general elections in 2019. Senior Congress leaders who met in the capital on Friday took this decision in the presence of Rahul. This is an admission of the fact that Rahul has failed to provide the dynamic leadership to the party that was expected of him. His ailing mother is still the best bet of the party. But the decision of the party elders has only postponed the answer to the inevitable question, who will eventually lead the party. The Congress being the largest among the Opposition parties, its leader should not only be able to lead his or her own party, but be acceptable to other Opposition formations as well. Even that is not enough. He or she should be acceptable to the people as well and enjoy their trust and confidence.
The leadership crisis that the Congress faces today has been in the making ever since the demise of Indira Gandhi. It was from the time of her leadership that the Congress implicitly accepted the dynastic leadership of a family, something that was quite alien to the Congress culture. Since then the party has always looked up to the family for leadership. When Rahul was found wanting, it was his sister who was being sought to be projected as a possible leader. The party could not look beyond the family, accustomed as it has been to family rule. The last time that there was a contest for party president’s post was in 1996 when Rajesh Pilot stood against the party’s official candidate Sitaram Keshri. Keshri won.
If the Congress has to survive as a political formation and be relevant to national politics, it has go back to its traditional democratic moorings and allow leaders at various levels of the party to come up from the ranks. There should be elections for every office including that of the Congress president. In 1950, Purushottamdas Tandon defeated Acharya Kripalani who was Jawaharlal Nehru’s nominee and became the party president. But he had to resign later because of his differences with Nehru. Gradually, the party became an appendage of the government. Later, the prime minister was also the party chief. But the decline of the Congress and its loss of power at the national level and most of the States have made it incumbent that the party rediscover itself and bring back the traditional democratic practice. The new leadership must come from the ranks.

Tuesday, 18 July, 2017