Congress party cannot be an elitist fiefdom; member protests display a meek show of cravenness

Saving its own skin, and retaining complete control over the party by hook or by crook, seems to be the foremost objective of the family. By orchestrating a raucous show of protest, in which overzealous members broke the police cordons in defiance of prohibitory orders, they only exposed their own vulnerability.

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, June 20, 2022, 09:17 AM IST
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Congress stage a protest in Agartala | Photo: PTI

It is hard to break the stranglehold of the Gandhis on the Congress party. Despite its complete washout in the recent Assembly elections, despite the Chintan Shivir that followed that drubbing, and despite the Group of 23 raising some valid questions about the complete lack of internal democracy in the party, the Gandhi family brazenly continues to treat the Congress party as its private fiefdom. How else can one explain the mobilisation of party cadres, including senior MPs and former ministers, to hit the street in defence of Rahul Gandhi when summoned by the ED to answer for his role in the National Herald deal? The Gandhis are accused of grabbing the considerable assets of the National Herald trust through the back door without paying a penny from their own pocket. Instead, they are alleged to have arranged to pay a relatively small amount from illicit sources through hawala channels, thus transferring the ownership of substantial real estate assets whose market value reportedly stood at Rs 2,000 crores. The ED summons pertained to the money-laundering involved in the above transaction.

However, the point is that the Congress party was not an accused in the National Herald case. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are. But since the party is treated as a family heirloom, its members were ordered to enlist their support for the Gandhis by protesting on the streets of the capital to oppose the ED questioning of Rahul Gandhi. The captive party units in the states too were made to follow the directive from on-high. It is remarkable that the party did not lift even its little finger when its leaders faced ED heat during the last eight years. In fact, a number of senior Congress leaders, including former minister P Chidambaram, have even been jailed in connection with various investigations still underway against them, but the Congress party did not see it fit to mount a show of protest in their aid. So, what is so special that only when the Gandhis are asked to explain their conduct in a dubious transaction do they have to commandeer the entire party to protest? The right thing would have been for them to answer the questions asked by the investigating agencies to the best of their ability and thus try and clear their name – that is, if they have done no wrong. By orchestrating a raucous show of protest, in which overzealous members broke the police cordons in defiance of prohibitory orders, they only exposed their own vulnerability. But, admittedly, they once again cocked a snook at the G-23, advertising their vice-like grip on the party. It is notable that such mobilisation by the Congress party was not considered in order to highlight the mounting woes of the common man. There is no dearth of popular issues concerning the public weal, over which the main opposition party can bestir itself into action. From the bulldozer raj in UP to the increasing burden of consumer inflation, opposition parties can tap into the growing unrest in the country – provided they have a competent leadership identifying itself with the problems of the masses.

A leadership cocooned behind the high walls of security and opulence, and limiting its political action to tweets against the government, cannot expect to revive the fortunes of the party. To survive, especially in these tough times, a mass leader needs to dirty his hands in the everyday struggles of the people. Politics is not a part-time hobby; it is a 24x7 passion. The increasing role of social media in politics does not obviate the need for mass mobilisation for championing popular causes. Opposition parties can hope to regain relevance only by highlighting the wrongs and excesses of the regime in power. Indeed, even the task of getting the fragmented opposition onto a single platform on such bipartisan matters as the election of the next president requires imaginative leadership skills, which are regretfully missing in the Congress party. Saving its own skin, and retaining complete control over the party by hook or by crook, seems to be the foremost objective of the family. Small wonder, then, that such a dwarfed vision reveals itself in the current woeful state of the once-great Congress party.

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