Moment of reckoning: On Congress leadership

The Congress has set the ball rolling for organisational elections in a period of great uncertainty in the party. The Central Election Authority of the party hopes to have a session of the All India Congress Committee by February 2021 that will elect the Congress Working Committee and possibly a new president. The post of the president has been vacant after Rahul Gandhi resigned in the aftermath of the Lok Sabha election debacle in 2019. Sonia Gandhi filled in as interim president but the leadership vacuum has aggravated the morbidities of the party since then. In an extremely difficult political environment, the party has been drifting, aimless and rudderless. Its performance in the recent Bihar election was abysmal, made stark by the fact that Mr. Gandhi chose to go on a vacation in the midst of the campaign. Earlier it lost power in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and almost lost it in Rajasthan. The edifice that held the party together from 2004 to 2014 when it was in power at the Centre has crumbled. Even the personnel that reinforced it are moving out. With Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmed Patel out of the picture, and Manmohan Singh, A.K. Antony, and Ms. Gandhi herself old or weak, the party is staring at the unsettling end of an era.

Many leaders of the party have begun to air their concerns publicly. They have not yet challenged the leadership of the Gandhi dynasty, but it is now entirely possible that they will. Dynastic leadership is never desirable, but Mr. Gandhi has added to the party’s woes by being an uneasy heir. By refusing to hold office and cede control at the same time, Mr. Gandhi has cornered the Congress into a gridlock. Organisational elections could be an occasion to breathe some life into the party. It will also be an opportunity for the party to re-examine the role of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The dynasty’s ability to function as a glue that binds conflicting personalities and thoughts has weakened along with its capacity to mobilise voters across the country. Mr. Gandhi’s lament that his hands are tied by the old guard of the party is no longer valid as an excuse for inaction. Even after an overhauling of the organisation, the Congress will have a long way to travel to get into fighting shape. At any rate, Mr. Gandhi should not hold the party hostage to his indecision. The organisational election is a moment of reckoning for the Congress and the dynasty at its helm. How the party manages its course from now on will have larger implications for national politics. It cannot allow itself to be defined merely by its opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party, and must formulate and articulate an alternative, inclusive, egalitarian vision of India.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 11:32:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/moment-of-reckoning-the-hindu-editorial-on-congress-leadership/article33179062.ece

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