Congress chief must mean his ‘ordinary worker’ aspiration, break the old coterie and become a building block himself
“It is better to be patient and get what you desire in the right time, than have high office thrust upon you when you are not ready.” One doesn’t know if King George VI indeed uttered the exact words as shown in the hit show, The Crown, but they do aptly summarise the situation that a precariously perched Congress president Rahul Gandhi finds himself in after his career-best failure as captain of the ship. With one crucial difference. He did try sincerely to make it his desire, overcoming his limitations and the tag of dynastic entitlement. Granted he may not have chosen his legacy but was born to it. Granted he was the reluctant prince who was given the trusteeship of the party as a family conglomerate than feeling the grand old party ground up as the nation’s aspiration. Granted, he wasn’t comfortable with the existing durbar style engineering of the party which even denied him space to take his own decisions. Still, he tried. But surrounded by obsequious compliance than constructive criticism, he lost reality. For all his honest efforts, neither he, nor his sister could live down the tag of elitist arrogance set by the overarching image of his mother Sonia Gandhi and her trusted lieutenants. So much so that he himself became presumptuous, one that cost him his home seat of Amethi. As the coterie strengthened the hand-me-down logic, a national assumption gained ground that Gandhi and sister Priyanka were immature and incapable, simply because they seemed to be toeing the line rather than effecting real change. And therein lies the Congress conundrum. Gandhi is a victim of the popular perception outside and the intransigent party structure inside. Somewhere, he feels let down inside more. That is why he insisted he would resign and begin like an ordinary worker. Question is whether the hawks, fossilised over time with stale strategies, can afford to let go of their only person who can seemingly stir things up a bit yet while appearing to be in continuity with the old order? The Congress old guard must learn that they won’t even make it to a BJP-style margdarshak mandal as the party undergoes an existential threat and must give way to an assertive leadership that is bubbling under. If Rahul himself wants to take the back seat, they should first.
An epic can be written about Congress’ electoral bungling. Foremost among them being the refusal to shun old style optics, pretending to be commoners for three months, commiserating with the masses and ignoring that Indian polity now trusts only performance over intent. The revival was more cosmetic than structural. Even Prime Minister Modi and deputy Amit Shah went into a research lab huddle as to why the BJP slipped in the three heartland States in the Assembly elections and changed every leader on the ground to infuse new energy. The Congress’ Lok Sabha rout in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh was solely the price of its presumptive logic compared to the redress urgency of the BJP. The party further failed to begin Nyay experiments on the ground in the States it had power, something which would have appealed to the troubled farmer and the poor instead of the abstraction called Rafale that needlessly drew attention to its own suspicious Bofors deal. It did not acknowledge the grassroot tenacity of its federal partners. Incidentally, its nemesis — Mamata Banerjee, Jaganmohan Reddy, Himanta Biswa Sarma — were Congressmen once. Rahul, therefore, allowed the growth of new talent at the State level. But when it came to chief ministership in Rajasthan and MP, the old hawks came to roost at Sonia’s insistence, shattering the hard work of Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Yet an Amarinder Singh’s retention ability should have taught the Congress an essential lesson of empowering State level leaders and disseminating the message of governance, considering national-level muscular leadership of the Modi kind is not its strength. Rahul’s good-soul image won’t wash unless he is seen as scything through the deadwood with a firm hand. And is willing to build a competent, even if shared, leadership. If he wants any kind of relevance beyond being seen as the charioteer who took the party on the road to perdition, he should work the soil for the next five years and allow an alternative matrix to develop that is not dependent on traditional ways of deal-making. That style has ended with Modi 2.0’s new rich-poor binaries. He has to get down and dirty in his own party first.
Courtesy: The Pioneer