Sachin Pilot has evacuated himself from the Indian National Congress and the party is once again going through turbulent times. While the turbulence is not new for the party, since 2014 it has remained as it is. Many have opined that the Gandhis should step aside and let the young leaders (again dynasts) fill the gap. There are also individuals who believe that the Gandhis keep the INC together. And now everybody has blamed Rahul Gandhi for the current mess.
While it is easy to blame Rahul and claim that his replacement from the party will perhaps solve the problems; it is not that true. “People are done with Gandhis”, “People don’t want dynasties” – all these arguments are half baked. People have chosen the Nehru-Gandhi Family again and again for decades. Most regional parties are run by certain families. Even within the Bharatiya Janata Party, there are now dynasties ruling in various regions.
‘Rahul is Pappu and hence BJP wins’, the popular sentiment is a gross oversimplification of Indian politics. Had people voted for the BJP because ‘there is no alternative’, the party wouldn’t have secured more seats in 2019 than the 2014 General Elections. Let’s accept the fact that Modi is popular because of certain issues.
The problem is deeper and not many Congress supporters or the media personnel discusses it. After his series of articles demanding a greater internal democracy within the Congress Party, Sanjay Jha was relieved from his duty as the Party Spokesperson.
In an interview given to a web portal he said “The party should discuss its position on various issues. It should re-think about its image. Do people perceive that Congress very pro-minority? Does the party look anti-industry?”
Sanjay Jha has now been suspended from the Party for supporting Sachin Pilot.
Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor also tweeted saying that Congress should be rebuilt as a ‘liberal party headed by Centrist individuals’.
This is what the Congress as a party needs to rethink upon. The problem of Congress is not just the family but the party has drifted from its ideological position.
As columnist Harsh Madhusudan pointed out in his Twitter thread, it was the Congress that contributed to the reconstruction of Somnath Temple despite Nehru’s opposition. It was the same party that brought Kashmir and Hyderabad in India. The same party inserted the Uniform Civil Code in the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution. In other words, it’s the original Hindu nationalist party, irrespective of what it might have become.
Going further, Nehruvians today may criticise AFSPA, but it was the same party that brought it and used it the most to curb insurgencies in the Northeast or in Punjab and Kashmir. It was the same party that banned cow slaughter across India. Same party opened a front against Maoism. Same party ignored the Ram Mandir Movement after the blunder of Shah Bano Case and let Babri Mosque demolition. Same party started liberalising the economy and did it finally in 1991.
The nation accepted Sonia Gandhi again and again despite her own party members like Sharad Pawar and the BJP creating an issue out of her place of birth. Common Indians don’t find these things problematic. Congress embraced multiple voices and opinions. It included people from various ideologies.
The views expressed by the author are personal.
The problem with Congress is very recent. After Narendra Modi’s emergence in national politics, Congress started drifting away from its core ideology. While globally democracies are favoring the Conservative parties, Congress is driving itself away from the Centre-Left to more Left. Congress doesn’t need to move more Right to take on the BJP; but, it should’ve maintained its own ideological position. But, that did not happen.
In the JNU fiasco of 2015, Rahul Gandhi went to visit the students who allegedly shouted “tukde tukde” slogans. He offered sympathy to students. It wasn’t needed. The youth didn’t perceive Rahul as the voice of young people. Rather, people viewed Congress sympathising with the separatists. Despite media creating any ruckus, people perceived it differently. Congress should’ve learnt a lesson. Yet, in the 2019 General Elections manifesto, Congress promised to remove sedition from the law. On the issue of Urban Naxalism, Congress has started terming BJP as ‘fascist that is trying to suppress the voice of dissent.' Sushil Kumar Shinde as the Home Minister talked about ‘Urban Naxals’ during the Congress rule. Prof. Saibaba was arrested during the Congress rule. Congress was the party that started much-debated Salwa Judum to take on Naxals. Today, when BJP is doing similar things, Congress calls it ‘fascism’.
It is high time Rahul & Co. realises that common Indians don’t care about the theories given by Marx, Lenin, Bose, Tagore, Locke, Rousseau, Ambedkar or Nehru; but, they want the country to be united, integrated and strong at the same time by paying any cost for it. Bloggers and journalists who write pieces on liberalism and intellectualism make no sense for a large number of Indians. Shouting ‘fascism’ every day doesn’t really make Modi a Fascist. And even if he looks like one, people hardly care. They voted him again with more seats. Two years after the Emergency, the same Indians chose Indira Gandhi who had proclaimed it. Moreover, many supported it. Writers returning their awards pose no value for a common voter.
Congress’ position during the Pulwama Attacks and Balakot Strike in February 2019, its reaction in Parliament during the removal of Article 370, Citizenship Amendment Bill, or its current statements on China issue is actually costing it dearly. Beyond academicians and few social media thinkers, nationalism isn’t such bad value for Indians. They embrace it. If BJP is portraying Congress as ‘anti-national’, Congress is giving it a free pass.
One of the reasons for Modi’s success is he hardly cares about the opinions of so-called eminent journalists. He never addresses press conferences; yet, maintains a strong communication link with his voters. Journalism these days is less about reflecting the realities and more about individuals’ wishful thinking. In the age of social media, you need to have a balance between both. In the current Sachin Pilot drama, many media personnel are championing the position of Rahul Gandhi. They’re rather causing great damage to the party.
Reviving Rajiv Gandhi or Indira Gandhi in 2020 will not help. Most young voters were not even born when Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi were assassinated. They don’t feel connected. Congress needs to have a big ‘Margadarshak Mandal’ for those who support this nostalgia.
Indian National Congress was established to unite Indians and galvanise the feeling of staunch nationalism. That is the history of Congress. In Western political thought and especially after the Second World War ‘nationalism’ isn’t perceived positively there. India is different. Nationalism is still a very positive term here and Congress shouldn’t run away from it. Communist Parties are in shambles because they ditched all these values. Congress shouldn’t work hard to fill the vacuum of the Left parties. If it does, it will meet the same fate as Communists. And that’s not really an answer to challenge the juggernaut of Shah and Modi.