August 1, 2020 12:50:31 am
Six years after it suffered a rout in a general election, the Congress is yet to figure out why it has lost the confidence of voters. Since 2014, when the party was dramatically reduced from 200 plus seats to a meagre 44 in the Lok Sabha, the Congress has lost numerous elections, including the next general election in 2019 when its tally went up by a mere eight seats. And yet, its leaders, young and old, seem content with passing the blame to each other rather than honestly reckoning with their own failings. A meeting of the Rajya Sabha MPs called by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday saw the young blame the old and the latter ask all to reflect on why the party performs so poorly in successive elections. This periodic chest-beating almost never demands accountability from the Gandhi family that has led the party to multiple poll debacles — a few who spoke at Thursday’s meeting demanded that Rahul Gandhi, who quit as party president after the 2019 defeat, be persuaded to return. Therein, perhaps, lie the roots of the Congress’s woes — a leadership and cadre that sees office as privilege and inheritance, instead of a prize for hard work and perseverance.
At Thursday’s meeting, younger leaders deemed close to Rahul Gandhi reportedly blamed the party’s fall on those who were ministers in the UPA 2 government. Indeed, one reason for the UPA’s debacle in 2014 was the perceived corruption and mis-governance that plagued Manmohan Singh’s second term as prime minister. Yet, there seems to have been no accountability. The same cast of leaders continues to occupy party positions and a few have even been rewarded with berths in state governments and in Parliament. At the same time, the younger leaders have little to show for themselves. The more ambitious among them seem all too willing to abandon ideology and explore options outside the Congress rather than challenge the seniors within the party and force a change.
The Congress will need to arrest the drift if it does not want to lose more leaders to rivals, or even face a split. The listlessness at the top in the past has seen it lose the opportunity to form governments — Goa and Manipur — or save its governments — Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Being the country’s main Opposition party, the state of the Congress has a bearing on India’s democracy. An alert and active Opposition that holds the government accountable is missing. It is much needed.
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