India’s democracy is a miracle when you contemplate how many things could have gone wrong with it. Poverty, illiteracy, social inequality, caste system, religious differences. The electorate could have been a many-headed monster. Yet, it is unique, and while politicians think they can manipulate it, instead it devours political parties which lose its trust.
At the time of Independence, of the parties which were prominent, not many are left. The Socialist Party of Jayaprakash Narayan transmuted into the Praja Socialist Party (PSP). It split when Ram Manohar Lohia left to start his own party, and then the PSP merged into the Congress. Lohia warned the country that the only problem for India was the Congress party. His party did not outlive him.
The Communist Party, which was the official opposition in 1952, split into the CPI and CPM. They now are both shadows of themselves — the CPM for defying the UPA government and the CPI for befriending the Congress. There are other parties which have dimmed, if not disappeared — Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Rajya Parishad, BSP, SP, RJD, TDP. Now the Congress itself seems to be in terminal trouble. Its leadership is determined not to let Narendra Modi achieve his goal of a Congress-mukt Bharat. It will self-destruct instead. The latest crisis in Rajasthan was predictable since the Congress won it in 2018 along with Madhya Pradesh. There was hope that it meant a comeback in the general election of 2019. But then as soon as we knew the choice of chief ministers, it was only a matter of time before the success turned sour.
The Congress leadership chose to set aside young leaders in favour of the Old Guard. The young were the recent members of old dynasties while the Old Guard wanted to establish their dynasty. In a dynasty-run party, succession matters more than success. So when Jyotiraditya Scindia left the Congress and joined the BJP, it was a no-brainer that Sachin Pilot would go as well. So the next step will be the departure of Ashok Gehlot the way Kamal Nath went.
Nothing will be done to prevent it. Neither by the push me-pull you Rahul Gandhi nor by the longest serving Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The gerontocracy of have beens who are the powers behind the throne(s) would rather let the party die than give up their power. The defeat of 2014 was not acknowledged nor has the second defeat of 2019 been admitted. The lack of urgency is pathetic.
Forget not that when the BJP lost power in 2004, it behaved differently. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the losing leader, resigned to be replaced by L K Advani. The second defeat in 2009 did not immediately bring change in leadership. The incumbent did not wish to budge. But then the BJP is not a dynastic party. It is the only party with a semblance of internal democracy. Its president changes regularly. Rajnath Singh, the new president of the party then, persuaded Advani to concede to Modi. It paid dividends in 2014.
What is it about India that while electoral democracy is healthy, the party political system is family-led and undemocratic? Indira Gandhi set the norm for family ownership of political parties upon her return to power in 1980. As and when the Congress destroys itself, it may take other family parties with it. Lohia was right. The Congress is the problem.