A pyrrhic victory

Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel has ultimately won the Rajya Sabha bye-election from Gujarat after a nerve-wracking battle that went well past midnight. It was a Pyrrhic victory that exposed the feebleness and fragility of the Congress organization. First, Shankersingh Vaghela walked out of the Congress. Next, six Congress legislators defected – for reasons yet to be revealed – to the BJP. To save the rest of the flock from ‘poaching’, the Congress hastily flew the remaining 44 legislators out of Gujarat to Karnataka. Even after their return, two of the 44 cross-voted for the BJP candidate. It is the inadvertent mistake on their part to have shown their ballot papers to ‘unauthorized’ persons that ultimately led to the cancellation of the two votes on technical grounds and Ahmed Patel scraped through, much to the relief of 10 Janpath.
One swallow does not make a summer. Nor does one fluke victory hide the inherent weaknesses of the party. If the Congress has to put up even a semblance of a fight in 2019, it has to overhaul the party organization from top to bottom. Sonia Gandhi has to be there because it is she who is still holding the party together. But others will have to make room for newer and younger elements having dedication and dynamism. The promising among them have to be groomed for taking over the leadership of the party sooner rather than later. The Congress can cling on to the dynastic culture that has grown since Indira Gandhi’s time only at its own peril.  The Congress must change if it is to survive and serve the people. In spite of the pitiable state it finds itself in today, the Congress is still the only opposition party which has an all-India presence. It still commands the loyalty of thousands of dedicated workers down to the village level.
In the present circumstances, Sonia Gandhi can play a crucial role if she can see the reality in the face, critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders, her son included, and take some hard decisions. The old guard has to be retired, new blood has to be infused and the Congress will have to rediscover its old moorings that were built in course of the freedom struggle. The Congress will have to survive and lead the struggle for retaining the secular and democratic character of our polity which is in grave danger now.

Thursday, 10 August, 2017