Review of Ideology and Organization in Indian Politics: Crises in the Congress

The party should not move away from its core politics of secularism, argues Zoya Hasan

Updated - October 15, 2022 12:54 pm IST

Published - October 14, 2022 09:02 am IST

Is the Congress the victim of a coalition of unfortunate circumstances? Well, not quite. 

Is the Congress the victim of a coalition of unfortunate circumstances? Well, not quite. 

For years, the Indian National Congress was synonymous with the idea of India. However, the idea of India itself is undergoing change today. Nehruvian socialism with its core of pluralism is giving way to Hindu nationalism. Under the circumstances, the Congress has been hung out to dry. In this backdrop, Zoya Hasan’s Ideology and Organization in Indian Politics: Polarization and the Growing Crisis of the Congress Party takes a dispassionate look at the party that led the freedom struggle, set up core institutions of democracy and power, and later, with liberalisation, kickstarted a floundering economy, but today faces an identity crisis.

This book is for those who look up to the Congress with hope in these bleak times, as also for those who realise that the party has contributed in no insignificant manner to the current morass. The situation on the ground too tells a story. Out of power in Tamil Nadu since 1967, Gujarat since 1998 and U.P. for more than 30 years, the party’s core vote-bank has shifted. The Brahmins have shifted allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Muslims have moved on to the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and other regional parties. The middle class, which was the biggest beneficiary of the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh reforms push, has not returned the favour.

Playing with fire

Is the Congress the victim of a coalition of unfortunate circumstances? Well, not quite. The Hindutva bandwagon was given fresh energy when the locks of the Babri Masjid were opened during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership. The politics of appeasement gained currency after the Shah Bano verdict was overturned by his government. The Congress’ inability to solve the other backward classes puzzle followed by the Manmohan Singh government’s reluctance to move against Narendra Modi for the Gujarat riots in 2002 when it came to power at the Centre in 2004 show that the party compounded one wrong move with another.

Hasan, a veteran follower of the crests and troughs of the Congress, has a canvas that is both intimate and universal. Talking of the party’s increasing tilt towards the majority community, she writes, “After its defeat in 2014, Congress was acutely worried about its pro-minority stance, which was said to be turning away the majority community from the party... The party consciously sought to make amends.”

Followers of the oldest political party would do well to read this book. As for the party itself, there is plenty of advice. As Hasan writes, “The Congress has to learn the politics of ‘give a lot, take a little’,” and hope to eventually prevail in the alliance-coalition framework by virtue of being the only national party in the opposition.

Ideology and Organization in Indian Politics; Zoya Hasan, Oxford University Press, ₹1,495.

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