The Congress Catharsis

Image Credit: ClipartFox

The election results are in and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged triumphant with thumping mandates in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Congratulations are in order for the disciplined functionaries, the robust organization, the master strategist party President and of course to the Prime Minister whose message of development has resonated loud and clear with the electorate of these two states. The Indian National Congress (INC) on the other hand has been eviscerated in these two states. It also hasn’t fared particularly well in other states with the notable exceptions of Punjab where it did actually bounce back to power in emphatic fashion and much to the surprise of psephologists and Congress leadership alike. This reversal of fortunes in Punjab shouldn’t be treated as a vote of confidence for the Congress party but should really be read as a clear repudiation of the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP combine’s utter misrule in the state. A little credit must also go to the old trooper Captain Amarinder Singh whose last hurrah contributed significantly to the windfall (his efforts in persuading the voters to redirect their vote from the AAP to the Congress). The result in Goa is most likely a reaction of the public to the  leadership musical chairs that played out with the incumbent government and there could also have been be a tinge of the religion angle as well.

So where does this leave the Congress party and more importantly its leadership? The BJP now rules over 50% of the country. The Congress on the contrary runs governments in just 5 states out of which only two states are of consequence i.e. Punjab and Karnataka. Rahul Gandhi has been the de facto face of the party for the last 8 years now. He led the Congress electoral campaigns starting with limited success in 2009 (this was perhaps because the electorate gave him the benefit of the doubt due to his status as ‘unknown commodity’) but it has been a calamitous run ever since. The assembly elections in 2012, the general elections in 2014 and the most recent debacle in Uttar Pradesh should not leave any doubt about the potency (or lack thereof) of his leadership. Gandhi family acolytes steadfastly defended him till the recent elections by advancing the argument that he was young and there still had much to learn! They also unfailingly found a fall guy to assume Rahul’s sins.

But something finally seems to have snapped and everybody seems to be singing an irreverent tune post this fiasco. None in the coterie has played the ‘babe in the woods’ card. Instead, there is a palpable desire to break with the high command and chart a new course for the party. The disillusionment with the leadership seems to be complete and the frustration with the status quo seems to have finally boiled over.

Can this benign chorus of discontent become a war cry of rebellion though?

There has been a clamor for a ‘Congress mukt Bharat’ (Congress free India) and it seems to have reached its crescendo post these elections. That said, I would argue that a ‘Gandhi dynasty mukt Congress’ would be a far more prudent option than calling for the demise of the Congress party. India, the world’s largest democracy needs a vibrant opposition as much as it needs an enterprising ruling dispensation. The Congress with all its baggage and flaws is truly the only other pan-Indian political party apart from the ruling BJP. Doing away with the Congress would mean allowing the ruling party to monopolize the national discourse and the national agenda and eliminating the system of checks and balances so necessary to preclude any attempts at constitutional overreach and subversion.

That said, it would be far from easy to dislodge the ‘Family’ and its clique. They are akin to termites who are so comfortably ensconced and are so deeply entrenched within the party system (read deadwood) that it just might be impossible to to pry them out without actually destroying the party itself. Therefore, the Grand Old Party of Indian politics might need to go to the purgatory for a good old fumigation.

This process must begin with the dissenting voices raising their volume and banding together in open rebellion against the ‘High Command’.

They will have to demand a non-negotiable and radical series of actions to be set into motion starting with the stepping down of the current leadership i.e. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi relinquishing their currently held positions as President and Vice-President of the party respectively (Please remember when a publicly listed company performs badly for its stakeholders then either the CEO takes responsibility and voluntarily steps down or is fired by the board/by extension the stakeholders and the same thing should happen to the Congress leadership).

They will have to call for the immediate dissolution of the current Congress Working Committee (CWC).

The General Secretaries of the AICC should also be relieved of their positions.

The AICC (current general secretaries cannot vote) must thereafter elect a new CWC and a new party president.

The new President and CWC must then select the new general secretaries (the outgoing general secretaries will be eligible for selection).

Last but not least, there should be fresh Pradesh Congress Committee elections and the new committees and a new PCC president chosen in all states. That ought to complete the catharsis of the Congress Party, end the vicious cycle of ‘Crony Congressism’ and ready them for a new beginning.

Politics should be a competition to come up with the best ideas to progress the growth of the nation and advance the causes of the society and should never be relegated to being a mere wrestling match between ideologues. Hope the Congress and other regional parties are listening!