Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What has gone wrong with the Congress?

In March 2013 Sonia Gandhi created history by leading the Indian National Congress at a stretch for 15 years. In 2014, now its 16 years and she is still going strong....but not really!

Now her party and perhaps even her family is limping into one major political crisis after the other. The mandate 2014 has now been turned into a battle against the domination of her family. 
Madam and her dummy!

But for political commentators what matters more is what's really wrong with Congress. Sadly for Sonia, weeks before the Mandate 2014 actually got into process, the Congress minister and a trusted lieutenant of Rahul Gandhi, Jairam Ramesh asked journos when the turnout was poor for a press conference: “have you all given up on our government?”
Lately, Ramesh tried to do some plain speaking and said Congress will pay heavy price for bifurcating Andhra Pradesh. The BJP leaders endorse Ramesh but only partly saying Congress debacle will be nationwide. 
Sonia-Rahul's worst critic Narendra Modi is devastatingly aggressive when he asserts in rallies after rallies: 'Ma-Beta ka sarkar toh gaya (The mother-son duo-led UPA government is gone". Many Congress leaders are on defensive and the likes of Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, another family loyalist, has already mooted the idea of backing a third front regime.

Even the western media has ended the honeymoon with Congress president, her son Rahul and her ‘chosen’ Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh when unhesitatingly Time magazine even called Manmohan Singh ‘an underachiever’.

“The Congress president has undoubtedly a challenging task in reorganising her party machinery whatever be the outcome of 2014 elections. Her bigger challenge lies in deciding what role her son, Rahul Gandhi would exactly like to play,” said Sunil Shastri, son of illustrious Lal Bahadur Shastri, who quit Congress in December 2013 to join BJP.
So, what has gone wrong with the grand old party?

In the last 16 years, actually Sonia, Italian-born Christian widow, stormed through turbulent politics marred by aggressive nationalism of Hindutva forces, BJP and the most potent rival Narendra Modi. Even her worst critic would agree that she has held the Congress party together and more importantly led the party to an unexpected victory in 2009 and earlier in 2004 --- when amid hypes of ‘India Shining’ campaign of BJP, the pundits had almost written off both herself and her party. 
“The Congress base in shrinking…,” an upbeat but ‘over confident’ L K Advani had said on the eve of elections in 2004. But when the results poured in on May 13, 2004; it was Sonia Shining instead.
She also created a history when she declined to take up the mantle of prime ministership and handed over the reins to economist Dr Manmohan Singh.
It was truly an unique experiment for Sonia, Congress party and the country. But there were inherent contradictions in that so called 'sacrifice' of 'Saint-Sonia'. And in retrospective analysis, one can say, that CONTRADICTION has brought in Congress DOWNFALL. 
Congress never had duel power centres in recent past. And the country was given a pro-liberalisation Prime Minister supported by Leftists. THE WORST OF IT WAS MANMOHAN SINGH'S SILENCE AND PASSIVE APPROACH. 
While privately, she and her coterie including son Rahul rejoiced the 'power' they had in the last decade with less accountability-apron attached to it; this heralded the real decline. Thus, many Sonia admirers too find it difficult today to give Congress any credit of providing a credible governance.
The serious credibility crisis for Congress today is the UPA government in the centre has not set any example of performance and delivery though under Sonia's personal stewardship a number of welfare measures were taken and path-breaking legislations like the Right to Information Act enacted.
More seriously, more often the family saga remained her enigma. Son-in—law Robert Vadra made news for wrong reasons and nobody really knows what her inheritor of the legacy, Rahul Gandhi, is capable of or what he wishes to do.
Even die-hard Congress supporters in UP today lament that Rahul Gandhi's hesitation in not taking the mantle as party's PM-candidate was only a blunder.
In governance the party had worst taste of corruption menace. There have been half-a-dozen serious scandal of economic offence the ruling establishment has faced. The official auditor CAG had alluded to kickbacks and dubious deals in the allocation of 2G  telecom licences, leading to a  US$32 billion loss. Corruption on a massive scale was also alleged in the organizing of the Commonwealth Games in 2010, Adarsh Housing scam in Mumbai left widows of war victims anguished and there was Coalgate unde the very nose of 'honest' Dr Manmohan Singh. There were few others like privatization of Delhi airport.
These scandals resulted in a round of resignations and the imprisonment of top politicians and ministers. The fungus of corruption has eaten into all spheres of life in India!!
There was, however, no corrective measure. Neither Sonia nor Manmohan Singh gave clear indication of curbing the corruption malady. 
Then nothing was done to attack the 'twins’ menaces of sycophancy and durbar culture. Sonia continued to run the party surrounded by ‘yes men and women’ and no accountability was  fixed on Rahul Gandhi for failing to deliver Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress leaders truly would go down the memory land for their unique reputation for discipline because of their docile obedience to the Nehru-Gandhi family. But this is a discipline imposed from outside. It was sheer sycophancy. It neither had loyalty, sincerity of purpose nor accountability and thus it was bound to fail.
In the end, when it came to electioneering there were several areas where Congress was simply no match to counter BJP.

In a previous blog, I have mentioned how voters feel frustrated with Congress for giving up the fight. Even at the height of electioneering, the Congress seemed to have banked on someone like Arvind Kejriwal. In terms of election, party leaders tried to pick up one issue each day. 
The likes of M J Akbar, senior journalist who also joined BJP recently, feel the Congress president should have taken some hard steps when the going appeared tough way back in 2012. One opportunity was presidential polls when Manmohan Singh could have been elevated to the Rashtrapati Bhawan and replaced in the hot seat (as PM) by Pranab Mukherjee, who has a track record of delivering 'politically'. Others say, Sonia had other options. She could have tried a Dalit and a woman as Prime Minister in the form of Meira Kumar and go for a kill.
In retrospect, the aura of the politics of a shy and supposed reluctant ‘widow’ remains enigmatic. 
In the end it would not be wrong to say that the irony is that Sonia Gandhi stands vindicated when she told her son that 'power' is poison. Initially after her husband's death she had apparently refused to plunge into politics. Today there is little to dispute that perhaps she is one of the most ‘unhappy persons’ in Indian politics.


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