Writer: Rahul Verma
The decisions taken in the Congress Working Committee on Sunday may give hope to some people, but I have no hope from them. It would be foolish to predict the extinction of a political party twice the age of the Republic of India, but it would not be wrong to say that wearing a Band-Aid when surgery is needed will not work. There are wins and losses in a democracy, but the political power of the Congress has been on a ‘structural’ decline for at least three decades. The party leadership is yet to realize how deep this organizational decline is and what a crisis it is going through.
family is congress
Congress not only stays away from normal politics, it has also been its habit to wear false morality. As strong as the party thinks itself on paper, the fact is that it is fast moving towards the margins. If any other party of the same size had been in such a condition, it would have openly revolted. There are examples in other countries of the world where parties have overcome difficulties like Congress. These include the Labor Party of Great Britain, the LDP in Japan and the Liberal Party of Canada, among many others. Voices of opposition have also emerged from within the Congress, but I do not think that the party will be divided in two parts in the near future. The way the Congress was broken in 1969 or 1978, its chances are still slim. There are very few leaders in the party who have the power to mobilize the masses. Nor do they have the resources for it. Therefore, the process of moving leaders from Congress to other parties will continue, which we have been seeing for some time now.
The second reason for this is that the Congress is unable to see its future beyond the Gandhi family. For the past few decades, the party has been living in a bubble that has not been able to properly analyze its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. For this reason, she could not even make necessary changes in her ideological vocabulary. Nor did he change the party’s organizational structure and leadership at crucial times.
It is true that most political parties adopt ethics to stand out from others. It also helps them to gain political loyalty. For this they often choose a motive. This motive is initially linked to the ground realities, but later vested interests give it the form of a myth. But there comes a time in front of a party when these myths do not get as much political advantage as before. This is exactly what happened with Congress.
The first such myth is related to the history of Congress. This myth suggests that it was this party alone that led the freedom struggle or made modern India. Congress considers itself synonymous with electoral democracy. She feels that only she can represent all classes, regions, religions, castes. This myth is associated with the history of Congress, which has not had a good record in the appointment of Dalit, OBC or Muslim chief ministers. The Congress has not had a very good record either in state governments of other parties or in poverty reduction.
The second myth is that the Congress has sacrificed itself for the sake of national unity and national interests. To justify this point, the party people reminisce about the assassinations of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi and the rejection of Sonia Gandhi’s prime ministership in 2004. The third myth is that only Congress and Gandhi family care about the poor and they can do their welfare. They can be saved from the feudal and capitalist class. The intention behind many welfare schemes of the Congress governments was to give their due to the deprived sections, but it is also true that the behavior of the party leadership has been the same as that of the Mai-Baap Sarkar. On the other hand, the less said on the relationship of the Congress with the economic and feudal elite classes, the better.
The fourth myth is that the ideology of the Congress matches the ‘Idea of India’. The party believes that the reach of other ideologies – Hindutva, Socialism, Left, Ambedkarism is limited. It feels that these ideologies may be popular in some places for some time, but the work of the country will not work without the Congress ideology. The fifth myth is that it is the natural party to rule the country. Indira Gandhi was expelled from the Congress twice in 1969 and 1978. He got victory in the elections that followed. Because of this, the Congress feels that without the Gandhi family, the work of the party will not work.
what is the future
The Congress returned to power under Sonia Gandhi after being out of office between 1996 and 2004. But the party forgets that in the meantime its graph in the states kept going down. In many important states of the country, the Congress has been out of power for more than three decades. What the Congress doesn’t understand is that before 1969 or 1978 these myths were probably true for it, but now they have no meaning.
In such a situation, the question is natural that what is the future of Congress? Yogendra Yadav sees Congress in three forms – political party, symbolic form and concept. The Congress as a party is dying a slow death as compared to the political project of the BJP. As a symbolic form it has lost much of its appeal and as a concept it is nothing more than an illusion.
(The author is a Fellow at Center for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi)
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.