By Sagarneel Sinha
There have been reports of division within the Congress party about its Lok Sabha election campaign led by Rahul Gandhi with the slogan “Chowkidar chor hain” — an indirect attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being a “thief”. Later, Rahul himself too in his resignation letter after the results had confirmed by mentioning that at times he found himself alone — pointing to the disunity among the party. However, all these disunity remained mostly behind the curtains till senior party leader Jairam Ramesh’s cautious public comment not to demonise Modi everytime — as it will not benefit the party. He said that schemes like Ujjwala were successful — and to confront Modi, it is better to recognise his works that connect him with the common people.
Although, many Congress leaders are criticising Ramesh for publicly making statements, which they thought unnecessary, but he too has found some takers from within his own party — party’s Rajya Sabha member Abhishekh Manu Singhvi, also a lawyer, and party’s Lok Sabha MP Sashi Tharoor, who somehow manages to stay in news headlines either through his statements, often prone to controversies, or through his magisterial English command causing spikes in google searches. This time too by supporting Jairam, Tharoor has invited criticisms — not from opposition — but from his own party leaders, particularly from leaders of Kerala, the state he represents in parliament.
However, the significant point is — what prompted senior leaders like Jairam Ramesh to give such statements from public forums which goes against the party line instead of communicating the views within the party? Jairam could have conveyed his thoughts that contradict the official partyline to Sonia or Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi. After all, Gandhi family, which commands the party, is not beyond his reach.
One reason might be that Jairam Ramesh, who is currently not a member of Congress Working Committee, the party’s topmost executive body, is trying to send signals to the party about his intention for a significant role in the party. Same goes with Singhvi and Tharoor who too are not part of the party’s topmost executive body. So, it may be a tactic for propagating their own ambitions — that they want to pursue within the party in the future.
Another reason, a very salient one, would be that there might be no takers of Jairam’s opinion within the party. This is something that sounds disturbing — if this is true. That senior Congress leaders like Jairam are not heard within the party forum — ultimately prompting him to speak his inner conscience from public forum. Here in this case, Rahul’s statement that he often found himself alone in the election campaign assumes much significance. Also, it brings back the issue of Rahul’s resignation. Was Rahul’s stepping down from the party president more related to Congress’ own internal divisions than its disastrous defeat in the elections?
It seems so. After all, Congress is still in the hands of the Nehru-Gandhi family with Sonia Gandhi as its interim president. This points that Rahul was more unhappy with his own party colleagues who were unsatisfied with his election strategy — particularly the “Chowkidar chor hain” campaign against prime minister Modi. This might have prompted Rahul to step down as a plan to win back the faith of his own party leaders, especially the old guard of the party. Re-election of Sonia Gandhi also directs to this perspective as she is known to have more cordial relations with the old guard of the party than her son.
But it seems that despite Sonia back in the helm, she has been unable to combine all the voices of the party into one. That’s the reason that there are different tunes from old guard leaders like Jairam Ramesh, who somehow has tried his best to indicate his opposition about the political strategies of the party — or particularly Rahul Gandhi’s style of working. The things that are coming out from the Congress are well pointing out that the party is completely disunited. Already the party faced embarrassments from within on the issue of Modi government’s decision to strip the clauses of the Article 370 — which accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Deepender Hooda — all known in the party as Rahul’s young brigade — too supported the move prompting anger from opposition leader of Rajya Sabha and senior party leader Gulam Navi Azad from Jammu and Kashmir.
Also, the salient fact is neither any member from the Gandhi family nor the Congress party officially has denounced these leaders for deviating away from the party line. Means that party is also following the wait and watch theory. Same goes with the leaders who too are trying to exert their influence on the party’s policies — or possibly trying to save their own political careers. Notably, what these leaders are saying generally echo the majority sentiments of the country.
Whatever the truth is, one thing clear is that these developments point to the fact that nothing is well within the grand old party where both the old and the young guards are trying to make their points — that too by resorting to public forums — despite being aware of the fact that it will bring humiliation to the party, which is already beleaguered after facing two consecutive defeats at the hands of BJP. Congress shouldn’t forget that BJP, despite winning a big mandate, is currently on a welcoming spree for whoever knocks at the doors of the party’s headquarters and wants to hold the “lotus” in their hands! So, it will be better for the Congress high command to consider the voices of its own leaders — before it is too late. (IPA Service)