Will Rahul Gandhi’s resignation resolve the crisis of Congress Party?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Congress President Rahul Gandhi has ultimately resigned. He had resigned immediately after the massive defeat of his party during the general elections but the loyalists in the party dragged the issue too long hoping that he would be persuaded to take his resignation back but they failed. Rahul tweeted his lengthy letter to his party and to the general public. He thanked his party workers and felt proud of the Congress party yet felt that somebody has to take the responsibility which starts from the top. “Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as president of the party.”

There is no doubt about the fact that Rahul campaigned from the heart though it needed a bit more strategy and flexibility. He never realized that the ‘chowkidar chor hai’ slogan and Anil Ambani has given Rs 30,000 crore by Modi in his bank account, went a bit far ahead and became totally monotonous. While there is no doubt that Narendra Modi and his party fought this election on all fronts including an absolutely undignified assault on the Gandhis and his great grandfather, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Congress leadership failed to counter it. Rahul did not bother to question Modi’s record on minorities particularly Muslims along with the incidents of mob lynching as well as loss of jobs in the government sector.

Rahul became alone when he took on Modi and Ambani directly as his party colleague refused to follow his line.

The fact of the matter is all the political commentators who had known Congress and Rahul’s father Rajiv, know it very well that Ambanis benefitted from Gandhi’s family the most. Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi, Chidambaram as well as former President Pranab Mukherjee were considered to be too close to Ambanis hence Rahul’s attack became useless as his party people themselves were not convinced about Ambanis.  In his resignation letter, Rahul talks about this ‘aloofness’ when he says ‘We fought a strong and dignified election. Our campaign was one of brotherhood, tolerance and respect for all of India’s people, religions and communities. I personally fought the prime minister, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the institutions they have captured with all my being. I fought because I love India. And I fought to defend the ideals India was built upon.  At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it. I have learned so much from the spirit and dedication of our workers and party members, men and women who have taught me about love and decency,”

The fact of the matter is Rahul’s attack on Modi itself was not always dignified. His discomfort with Hindi is clearly visible where many times his sentences about Modi crossed that limit of decency. Like Modi Bhaktas, the secular bhaktas too don’t understand these issues.

Secondly, I will disagree with him wholeheartedly about the issue of minorities and the marginalized. Why should the minorities and marginalized come along with him if he has no agenda for them?

I had written many times, that Rahul Gandhi must not forget the Nehru mantra and read and read his speeches. If he has no time for that, he must listen to them, particularly issues of Sangh Parivar and its hate agenda, the last interview of Nehru with the foreign journalist, before his death in 1964. Unfortunately, Rahul’s advisers persuaded him not to even take the name of Muslims in his conferences. Rather, Congress leaders went overboard in claiming him a Shiva Bhakta and donning janeu which was completely farcical. You don’t need to show your janeu to fight against the Sangh Parivar. They can’t ask Akhilesh Yadav or Mamata Banerjee or even Jagan Reddy about this.

Secondly, Janeu itself is about caste supremacy and deny the right to wear it by the majority of the Bahujan who are counted as Hindus in the census. A majority of the Bahujan are denied dignity and human rights in the caste structure. Rahul Gandhi’s speeches had nothing to offer for Dalits and Muslims because of the fear of the ‘Hindu’ backlash. It happens because of ambiguity of ideas otherwise who could say that the circumstances today were not that vitiated and dangerous as during the partition when Nehru fought with his might against the attempt to create a Hindu theocratic state in India. The ambiguous ‘love’ that he often invokes is nothing in the absence of a substantial take on against the hate projects of the Sangh Parivar, particularly against the Muslims.

An important point of Rahul Gandhi’s resignation letter is about the capture of institutions. I think this is very valid and must be on the top of the agenda of all the political parties to protect them.

The fact is powerful governments including his grandmother’s as well as his father’s always demolished institutions. Modi has not invented anything new as he is purely following the guidelines of what Mrs Indira Gandhi did in 1975 and afterwards. Institutions collapsed. Modi has got the art of sophistry plus the middle classes which were victims of the emergency are enjoying this modern emergency voluntarily as long as the Gandhis and their families are made responsible for all the evils and ills of India.

The issue of not merely EVMs but also of autonomy and independence of the Election Commission is of great concern and essential for all the parties to protect their integrity and ensure that they remain autonomous.

Rahul Gandhi said, “A free and fair election requires the neutrality of a country’s institutions; an election cannot be fair without arbiters – a free press, an independent judiciary, and a transparent election commission that is objective and neutral. Nor can an election be free if one party has a complete monopoly on financial resources.

Rahul Gandhi said: “We didn’t fight a political party in the 2019 election. Rather, we fought the entire machinery of the Indian state, every institution of which was marshalled against the opposition. It is now crystal clear that our once cherished institutional neutrality no longer exists in India,” Rahul Gandhi said in the statement.”

Problem is that Congress Party since Indira Gandhi’s days were more a gang of power manipulators who ensured no fairness and success depended on your acceptance by the leadership. The monopoly of the leadership was so powerful that they could throw anyone out and bring any spineless politicians in.

It was said, that Indira Gandhi never wanted powerful leaders. Congress followed that pattern even when it was not powerful and the result is that today it does not have powerful leaders from states. Political parties in power try to manipulate institutions and that is not new to India.

Of course, when the government at the Centre were fragile coalitions, the same leaders pretended to ‘respect’ institutions. T N Sheshan was the first election commissioner who actually made the Election Commission powerful not during the period of Rajiv Gandhi’s brute majority but when the phase of the coalition had started in India.

We can’t forget how Congress appointed M S Gill, former Chief Election Commissioner as a Minister of State apart from Mr Naveen Chawla, whose closeness to Congress High Command was well known. So, the destruction of institutions is not known and Congress can’t get away with the blame of diluting their importance but putting absolutely undeserving people in many of the autonomous bodies and Commissions, just because of their connections. As Rahul Gandhi says,

“The stated objectives of the RSS, the capture of our country’s institutional structure, is now complete. Our democracy has been fundamentally weakened. There is a real danger that from now on, elections will go from being a determinant of India’s future to a mere ritual,”

The question is why should our state institutions and apparatus not be made absolutely nonpolitical and completely dedicated to the fair values of our constitution. Why should they be either Gandhian or left or Sanghis? Why can’t they be told to adhere strictly to the constitution, international human rights covenants and laws? Why can’t the officers be made to read the Annihilation of caste and the issue of untouchability, gender justice, and caste discrimination as we are a society of caste hierarchies that destroys our national unity?

The problem with Rahul Gandhi or liberal secular’s approach is that they wish to inform us that India has suddenly become illiberal as we were such a ‘great’ society in past as if the caste was invented yesterday only.

The critique of RSS will only be acceptable if Congress which ruled for over 50 years too admit that there are leaders in the party who had a soft corner for the Sangh Parivar and Hindutva.

We have no issue with leaders who are believers, astiks or naastiks but the Congress party must admit that while till Nehru’s Congress, it has the ideological strength to fight against Sangh Parivar, Congress started tilting towards Hindutva after Indira Gandhi’s return to power in 1982. The party became an ‘adda’ of all the manipulators who won’t shy away from creating artificial and alternative political leadership.

Bhindranwale did not emerge as a leader on his own because Indira Gandhi felt he could counter the Akalis better than others.

The Man Mohan Singh government’s free hand to Ramdev, Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal were with the same thought that it would destroy BJP but the fact of the matter is Anna’s movement crushed Congress’s dream-like VP Singh in the 1990s.

Today, the party is unable to mount an attack on Modi on the corruption issue because its own track record is abysmal and horrific. None would believe that Congress is a party of ‘honest’ secular leaders when the likes of Kamal Nath, Narayan Rane, and Sanjay Nirupam, are around. There are many like them.

Roads are not closed for Rahul Gandhi. He has sincerity but his letter was more focused on the BJP which is right but we must admit that BJP did not win elections out of blue but worked hard whether at the social media, media, grassroots level or others. He is talking about funds but everybody knows that when Congress was in power, it was the party that enjoyed enormous funds from the industries. Once you have made them your enemies, they won’t give you money.

Congress should talk of electoral reforms but all its intentions look farcical when you see what they do in power as it was never part of their agenda. Party is still unclear about the EVMs. If the party feel that the electoral process was compromised and we all agree with it, why did the party not come out with a clear stand and opposed the election results or asked for more proof?

The party wanted to be in the good books of the government and at the same time, never stood with people who were fighting at the cost of their lives. Rahul talks of Gauri Lankesh but how many times have Congress party cadres really come in defence of them. Karnataka has a Congress government but the investigation process was slow. A similar thing happened in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where mob lynching incidents did not stop.

In Madhya Pradesh, people are openly blaming Kamal Nath for being inaccessible and worse than his processor Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan.

The question is, is a leader like Kamal Nath sabotaging Rahul Gandhi’s arrival on the national scene? When Rahul Gandhi is asking for accountability, why did no chief minister of the three states resign when Congress came to power. Why are they not taking responsibility as they were the biggest letdown? When they won, the media reported that it was not the victory of Rahul but these leaders but when these states got wiped out, it is the defeat of Rahul and these netas are enjoying power.

We know Rahul Gandhi is alone as Sonia’s coterie does not want a radical congress which can take BJP or RSS head-on.

The Brahmanical lobby in Congress still feels and it is true too, that at the end of the day, the people will only look to Congress when they are frustrated with BJP and hence they don’t want to antagonize their caste structure, dominated by the brahmins even when most of them are not voting to Congress.

How can a party survive if it does not have the ideological strength to fight against politics of hatred and division? Rahul Gandhi must explain as to how many of the Congress leaders have spoken against politics of hatred and division. Can we really believe that today’s Congress leaders can speak with conviction of ideology on the issue of hatred and division?

I am not here to give advice to Rahul Gandhi but his resignation letter is a stricture passed against old guards of the Congress party, a majority of who are part of CWC and might have contested elections several decades ago.

When people suggest Moti Lal Vora to be the President of the party, then it reflects, how far Congress Party has gone away from the people.

When India is going young and aspiring, Congress party leaders are going the other way around and unable to see the warning. Congress need a collegium and of course, Gandhis will remain at the helm of the party as they are the glue. They are the political family and perhaps know it well that after Rahul and Priyanka, no other Gandhi family member would be able to lead the party in the near future. There is no ban on them but they will have to work really hard in the competitive environment.

In the end, I must say, the hypocrisy of Indians who worship dynasties everywhere condemning one political family. The dynasty Gods, the dynast Rajas are the role model of Sangh Parivar but we don’t speak against them. The dynasty of businessmen, in cinema, in bureaucracy, in judiciary exists but we can’t speak.

‘Vansh’ is the thing for which Indians are ready to die. Politicians are anointing their children and BJP has not done away with it except at the top but yes, that phase too will come when people will question.

Rahul must focus on cleaning the party and leading the movement against hatred and division but before he starts, he must read Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar, Gandhi, Vivekanand and Nehru. I can say, this will help him understand India well. He must learn to critique his own party. His Dadi might be his role model but she also destroyed democratic institutions.

His father too bypassed norms of democracy and Rahul would do well to admit the faults of the Congress party and build the party by learning from them. He can do that by his suggestions and involvement in the party for which he need not be the president or leader in Parliament.

He can do that even without these positions but he must act fast as time is running out. Old-guard waiting for Modi’s mistakes would serve no purpose as Congress need to provide alternatives and accept its own faults too apart from the achievements of India through our combined efforts, which is the power of inclusive India.

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

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