The 23 letter-writers would be right to wonder what, if anything, they got out of their daring act. For, nothing came of their valiant effort to try and jolt the leadership into arresting the continuing drift and decline in the Congress Party. Really, it turned out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, with the Gandhi loyalists turning the marathon session of the extended Congress Working Committee into an occasion for singing hallelujahs to the leadership. Sonia Gandhi further firmed up her grip over the Family Firm, making it doubly certain that her chosen heir would replace her after the party goes through the motions of an election. In fact, organisational elections in the Congress Party are a sham. The last time these were held was in 1998, when Sonia Gandhi was anointed the party chief. It was an exercise in make-believe, with no serious challenger to oppose her candidature. Since 1998, the party has not felt the need to even go through the motions of an election. The entire party structure is filled with nominations from on-high. This time too, it is futile to hope there will be anything different. Locating a brave soul ready to offer himself as a candidate against Rahul Gandhi will be far more difficult than it may be to find a vaccine for Covid-19. So craven have the Congressmen become that sycophancy serves as a better assurance for progress in the party hierarchy than actual grassroots work. In fact, those with a grip on their regional support bases were quick to leave the party. Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal quit to form their own regional parties, since they did not see any future in a party tied to the little finger of the Gandhis. The letter-writers at one level need to be commended for having had the courage to show the mirror to the Leader about the growing irrelevance of the 134-year-old party. At another level, they undid their courageous work by allowing the shouting and screaming courtiers baying for their blood at the marathon Monday meeting of the CWC to force them into offering explanations for the letter. How we wish someone had followed up the valiant rebellion by taking it to its logical conclusion at the CWC meeting. For, seeking collective leadership, consensual decision-making, organisational elections, etc., was in no way a rebellion against the leadership. It was a desperate plea for a revival plan for the party. But a party which is irretrievably enslaved to 10 Janpath, a party which is teeming with time-servers and rank opportunists, a party which encourages sycophancy rather than hard work at the grassroots, will always show the door to those demanding a modicum of internal democracy and a cohesive plan to take on the ruling party. It is notable that party chief ministers in Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh pooh-poohed the letter-writers. This too is not surprising, given that at least two of them occupy their gaddis thanks to the blessings of the Gandhis. Only Amarinder Singh in Punjab has the standing to probably win on his own. But his coming out on the side of the haves against the have-nots too spotlights the Congress culture. It is another matter that a majority of the letter-writers themselves are paper tigers, having failed to nurse their own constituencies.
However they are not wrong in seeing a bleak future should Rahul return as party chief. For, the heir apparent does not inspire confidence in his leadership. His tweets against Narendra Modi and his cheap jibes against him are counter-productive --- the PM has gone from strength to strength. The myth that Rahul was popular with the relatively young leaders too was smashed when Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan revolted against Ashok Gehlot and Jyotiraditya Scindia walked out along with his supporting MLAs to topple the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. If the past- and soon-to-be-future president of the party fails to grow up as a leader, if he continues to behave in an erratic manner, there is every reason for the letter-writers to lose hope. The only ones who will be elated at the failed effort to reform the Congress from within will be the ruling party leaders. Instead of offering a meaningful opposition to the government's several acts of omission and commission, from the rising coronavirus cases to the failing economy to the threat at our borders,the Congress Party is obsessed with putting down the reformists in its ranks. Under the circumstances, we fail to see any redemption for the Grand Old Party.