The presidential election has virtually split the grand old party of India, the Congress, on ideological plane. Congress has been a conglomerate of people having divergent political and social backgrounds. It never had a defined ideological line. The party primarily followed the centrist political line. Even in the pre independence days if it had leaders like Vallab Bhai Patel and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, it also had Marxist oriented leaders too on its decision making bodies.
But the election of Mallikarjun Kharge as the president, the Congress will witness a new phase of ideological battle. Though the party had a distinct ideological line, this election the party witnessed a fight between the “left to the centre “elements who are for change and the liberal and “right to the centre” leaders. During the days of the Young Turks, the leftist oriented leaders had a strong say as the Congress leadership needed them to counter the offensive of the liberal and centrist elements. Before this election, the party had two elections; one in 1997 and another in 2000. But both these elections did not have any ideological leaning. Those elections were more of the nature of personality clash.
But the scenario this time is quite different. With party facing the threat of complete obliteration and annihilation in the wake of BJP pursuing its politics of Hindutva and ultra-nationalism, it has become imperative for the leadership to look to the self-styled leftist oriented politics. The leadership has come to realise that chasing the politics of soft Hindutva would prove to be more self-defeating and disastrous to the interest of the party.
One feature of this election has been quite significant. Though the G-23 group, representing the dissenting voice inside the party, has rallied behind Mallikarjun, the number of votes obtained by Shashi Tharoor, 1072, provides a robust view that members and leaders, down to the district level, are for the party opting for a radical change.
It is widely believed that the seasoned Mallikarjun Kharge would follow the politics of consensus, the 1071 AICC members who chose Tharoor’s view are not going to relent and accept all what he says. Kharge will be judged by his ability to rise above factional influences and take decisions objectively. One thing is absolutely clear that the Congress members, irrespective of their loyalty to Kharge or Tharoor, are committed to the Gandhi family. It is wrong notion that Tharoor has been anti Gandhi family. .
One development which needs distinct watch is Narendra Modi’s message to Kharge congratulating him for the win and second has been the BJP chief of IT cell Amit Malviya expressing his grief at the defeat of Tharoor. Both these actions have ominous objectives. This is more significant in the case of Tharoor. The party tried to convey that it was sorry for pro Gandhi forces coming together to defeat the forces of change. In an indirect way the message designed to convey that the Congress is still under the thumb of the Gandhi family. This is an attempt to malign Kharge and an outrageous attempt to decry the Congress. The BJP is panicky and that is apparent from what Amit Malviya has said.
Probably both these messages would not have come had the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi not received tumultuous support of the people. The BJP looks at this massive turn out of the onlookers as a major step towards revival of the Congress. The two messages are directed at creating confusion among the people. Mallikarjun’s first step to reconstitute the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and revival of the Parliamentary Board will decide the political line the party would adopt to counter the rightist forces. Mallikarjun just after his election spelt out his priority by asserting that his first task would be to fight fascist forces.
The task is quite arduous for Kharge. But in the prevailing political scenario, reaching out to the ground level leaders and cadres is the best way to generate confidence among the rank and cadre. Kharge must promote the regional leaders and induct them in the decision making process. Tharoor, who wasn’t a member of the CWC, obviously will now be aspiring to be accommodated in the highest policy-making body. But task is not so easy for him as has antagonised a large section of leaders by making allegations about the absence of a level playing field and about rigging in elections. Tharoor fad adopted a posture of defiance and gave the impression that he was fighting the status quoits forces which are responsible for the decline of the party.
Mallikarjun Kharge, the new Congress President, will be first non-Gandhi to hold post after 24 years. While it is widely believed that he being a dalit, would succeed in bringing the Dalits, who are with other parties, into the Congress fold. It may in probability would prove to be a figment of imagination. To succeed in his mission he would have to shake off his image of being status quoist. He has to launch an ideological battle against the BJP
The future war between the forces propagating politics of Hindutva and secular forces is going to be tough. The Congress leaders nurturing obsession for power and keeping their one step out of the party cannot be imagined to fight the onslaught of the Hindutva forces. Any counter narration to the BJP machination has to be evolved by the socialist and secular forces. It is also a known fact that revival of the politics of opposition lies on the shoulder of the Congress. A strong opposition can help democracy survive and retrieve its lost glory.
Rahul who has been leading the mission to resurrect the party has already made it clear that he would be at the beck and call of Kharge and perform the task assigned by him. This is a great boost for Kharge. Getting Rahul to spearhead the campaign to fight the evil of rightist manoeuvrings would prove to be a boon for Kharge. He ought to remember his task is to check the onslaught of the rightist forces and preserve the basic ideological and political structure and ethos of the country.
Often it is said that Rahul should skip the Yatra and focus on Gujarat election. But this is a adolescent understanding of the politics. Outcome of Gujarat election may have temporary impact on the future of the party. But the Yatra will revitalise the Congress at the grass root level across the country. Participation of die hard opponents of Congress and Gandhi family and massive participation of rural people in the Yatra, is the manifestation of the frustration of the people towards the rule of the RSS and BJP.
The task of Kharge is to retain party’s role and voice in the national politics and shaping up the future of the party. He has also to undertake the task of building the new generation of the leaders. With most of the leaders deserting the party and switching over to the BJP, there is a huge vacuum at the ground level. After Rahul Gandhi resigned as party chief after the 2019 electoral defeat, the party has been suffering a sense of uncertainty. (IPA Service)