Congress in need of a new normal

Updated: 03 August, 2020 07:36 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Rahul Gandhi's re-coronation looks imminent amid a growing chorus for his elevation and debate over preserving grand old party's legacy

Majority in Congress seem to believe Rahul Gandhi can steer the party and reshape it into a formidable national alternative to the BJP. File pic
Majority in Congress seem to believe Rahul Gandhi can steer the party and reshape it into a formidable national alternative to the BJP. File pic

Dharmendra JoreAmid a current debate over how to keep the party afloat, Congress’s rank and file are integrated in demanding the party’s revival to make it relevant in the national context, but on the choice for the top leadership, they are confused and divided. The Congress seems split between the three Gandhis — Priyanka, Rahul and Sonia — two of whom have tested both good and hard times when at the helm. A reason for the party workers’ strong belief in the first family is its legacy that somehow holds the usually fighting lot together, at least in seeing a sweet dream of the Congress recovering sooner or later. The question is: how can Congress reinvent itself and earn the support of a majority of the voters while it fights the internal and external fronts?

Holdings not intact
The Congress truly is a democratic unit as it allows members free-for-all debates and fights, criticism, suggestions and exchange of barbs. But once you cross the Laxman Rekha, you get a boot from the high command. Or, one has to leave the party amplifying the criticism of the top leadership and the leaders who were at odds with you. We should recall Madhya Pradesh, and look at Rajasthan for now. This has been going on for the past seven years, primarily because of people who saw greener pastures in other parties. But many continue to stay on despite being disappointed by the leadership. Unfortunately, it constitutes a large section of the Congress workers and sympathisers, who don’t have any say in the party’s thought process that should be based on their honest inputs. Fortunately, Congress still has a following in all sections of the society — the poorest of the poor, the lower, middle, and upper middle classes.

Debate is right, but…
The debate within the Congress has rightfully moved in the right direction, with Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra Rajeev Satav taking the lead during the party’s upper house members’ meeting with Sonia Gandhi. He asked the seniors to introspect and ponder the reasons for the 2014 general elections debacle. Satav, a close associate of Rahul Gandhi, moved up the ladder without faltering his loyalty and with hard work over the past 10 years. Rahul’s trust also gives him strength to speak his mind. Incensed by his barbs, the seniors accused Satav of maligning former PM Manmohan Singh, an economist of international stature, who opened the global doors to the country, first as the finance minister under then PM PV Narasimha Rao and later as a PM for 10 years. Satav clarified that he had no such intentions, but he cannot stop the seniors from linking his thoughts to Rahul tearing to shreds an UPA bill in public and other rebuke of the party’s old guard.

If legacy matters, then…
Incidentally, the veterans calling for respecting the party’s legacy (not just Nehru-Gandhi), have also found love in the party’s forgotten lot. Remember the Congress leadership showering praises on late PM and former party president Rao, who the Congress had forgotten completely because he ruled the roost before Sonia became a full-time politician? The Congress did remember Rao on his birth centenary, but failed in taking the ex-PM’s ground-breaking work to the country’s nook and corner. Late Jawaharlal Nehru cannot be forgotten, and then the BJP revived him in the memory of the Congressmen and masses. This writer knows of several young Congress leaders who have started writing about Nehru. Indira Gandhi continues to experience a refresh button, mostly from the Gandhi-Nehru bashers. Late Rajiv Gandhi should also find a permanent place in the party’s hall of fame, if it were to convince the people that only a Nehru-Gandhi scion can do good for the party and the country.

Rahul getting the party’s fulltime charge once again seems imminent amid a growing chorus for his re-coronation. Majority seems to believe he can steer the party and reshape it into a formidable national alternative to the BJP. Expecting him of striking a balance between the young and restless, and a patient old guard, shouldn’t be a wrong call. Actually, veterans like Digivijay Singh are already on his side. Agreeing that Rahul should be allowed to do politics differently, Singh expects the leader to be more active in Parliament, and be more accessible to people. But not every party member feels the same. To convince himself of the most important thing in politics, Rahul may need to revisit his grandmother’s reestablishment of public connect following her crushing defeat post-Emergency. Surely, he will have to be different and bring in a new normal in doing that because the national politics has changed extremely, and methods of connecting with the people have also changed, especially after the advent of a new BJP.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to

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First Published: 03 August, 2020 07:20 IST

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