Since the Election Commission set the December 31 deadline for it to conclude its internal polls, the Congress high command – read the Gandhis – have finally bowed to the inevitable. The schedule announced on Monday, following a ritualistic meeting of the so-called Congress Working Committee, has set December 4 for filing of the nominations, December 5 for their scrutiny, December 11 for withdrawal of candidature, if any, and December 16 for polling should it become necessary.
In case of a contest, counting of votes will take place on December 19. And if there is no one courageous enough to challenge Rahul Gandhi, the formal announcement of his election will be made on December 11, even if the scrutiny of nominations is set for December 5. The last is probably the only curious part of the election schedule aimed at finally elevating the long-time regent to the formal position of the all-powerful monarch of the Congress empire. Though vastly shrinking and in danger of shrinking further under Gandhi, such is the stranglehold of the Family that no one else in its vastly depleted upper echelons is willing and ready to confront him. Not even the fear of self-preservation that under Rahul, they too would go down further, seems to spur the Chidambarams and Sibals, the Pilots and the Scindias, to try and rescue the once great and good Congress Party.
Political parties are not immune from the laws of nature, their rise and fall governed by the periodical renewal of human capital and leadership. However, thanks to the rise of the identity politics and the consequent emergence of strong regional parties coupled with the aggressive and charismatic leadership of the BJP, the Gandhis-led Congress has been pushed to the margins. The failure of the Gandhis to come to terms with their reduced circumstances and to do business with other parties as equals, rather than as superiors, has contributed to the sorry plight of the Congress.
Therefore, the formalization of Rahul Gandhi’s de facto position as the numero uno in the party would change nothing aside from technically fulfilling the EC-mandated guidelines on internal organizational polls. Curiously, the anointment of Gandhi as the Congress President in place of his mother Sonia Gandhi, who, we suppose, can be made a Margdarshak a la L K Advani of the BJP, happens almost at the same time when the results of the Assembly poll in Gujarat and Himachal are set to be declared. A resounding rebuff by the voters while a pro forma endorsement by the captive Congressmen can only mar the celebrations of Rahul Gandhi’s long-awaited elevation to the family gaddi.