By Kalyani Shankar
The authority of the Congress high command seems to be eroding slowly going by what is happening to the party in several states, including Telangana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Karnataka. While the Congress is battling with the leadership crisis at the national level, the party is disintegrating in the states too. Senior leaders feel that with Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s stepping down with no clarity on whether or not he will continue, the grand old party is literally falling apart. In such confusion, it is no surprise that there is growing indiscipline and factionalism in the party has grown after such a drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Take for instance the pathetic condition of the Congress party in Telangana. In a serious setback, the state unit of the Congress is almost dissolved, with 12 out of 18 MLAs, who were elected in 2018 Assembly polls, joining the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi this week. Telangana Congress leaders like Uttam Kumar Reddy claim that the TRS has purchased the 12 MLAs. Retaining the remaining six will be a difficult job for the Congress leadership. The state unit is in serious crisis despite getting three seats in the 2019 polls. In the last Assembly, TRS managed to merge TDP Legislature Party with it by attracting 12 out of 15 MLAs who won in the 2014 polls. The Congress leadership is yet to recognise the gravity of the situation, as the party is almost finished.
In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where the party had snatched power from the BJP in December 2018, it is facing indiscipline and factionalism. Rift in the party has already surfaced. Some legislators who support the deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot demand that Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot should be replaced by Pilot. Ashok Gehlot has blamed Pilot for the defeat of his son in Jodhpur. In Madhya Pradesh too, there is a demand that Jyotiraditya Scindia should be made the chief minister. All these fractures are happening at a time when there is a threat to the government itself in both the states as the majority is very thin. The third state, which is facing instability, is Karnataka where the JD(S)-Congress coalition is not working well. There too is the danger of the government falling. If the Karnataka government falls, it will dent the image of the Congress further.
The Congress that ruled independent India for 55 years out of its 72 years so far is now fated to sit in the opposition for 10 consecutive years till 2024 — its longest dry spell. So far, the Congress, despite defeats, had revived again, due the leadership of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
With such humiliating defeats, the Gandhi family has to tread carefully. The first thing, as senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily suggested, is to remove the confusion about the leadership. The second is to save the present Congress-ruled states from instability. At least three states – Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are showing signs of instability.
The third thing is to contain the indiscipline and factionalism within the party, as is evident in Telangana, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Because of weak national leadership, the state units dare to revolt. The fourth is to check the erosion in the party in Telangana and elsewhere. More people might leave the sinking ship without a captain.
The fifth is the restructuring of the party as the Congress Working Committee, the top policy making body of the party has authorised Rahul Gandhi to do so. Many state-level heads of the party have also submitted their resignation owing responsibility for the defeat and a new leadership is essential if the party hopes to rise again.
Lastly, the Congress leadership should lift the sagging morale of the party workers. After all, everything is not lost and there are many more Assembly elections to be faced in the next five years. The immediate challenge is the upcoming Assembly polls to Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
Along with all these, the party should also function effectively in the upcoming Parliament session and take the leadership of the opposition by coordinating the floor management of all opposition parties. The CPP leader Sonia Gandhi is yet to nominate who would be the leader of the party in Lok Sabha. There are many who feel that Rahul Gandhi should take that responsibility and steer the party in Parliament. So far, he has not been attending the house regularly and spoke occasionally.
Sonia Gandhi vowed at the first Congress parliamentary party meeting last week: “In an unprecedented crisis, lies an unprecedented opportunity. It is up to us to grasp it with humility and self-confidence, drawing the appropriate lessons from our defeat… Undeterred by the many challenges that lie ahead, we will rise again.”
The decimated Congress party is certainly old but not grand any more. Many have written obituaries for the Congress but there is still time for the party to reinvent itself and revive under a good leadership. (IPA Service)