Dharmendra Jore: Will he be the next Phoenix of Congress?
Pests in the party pose a real threat to the Rahul Gandhi idealism that calls for going beyond the self
The writing was there on the 'Congress' wall: who else, but him! The wall had weakened considerably, but a dramatic turn of events has reinforced it, beating imagination of crores of Indians. Congress's new president Rahul Gandhi has promised to strengthen the wall further with his adventurous narrative. The Congress, ridiculed as a comatose unit, following BJP's surge to the top, seems to have stepped out of intensive care to become healthier, this time under the command of its 47-year-old captain.
The new Congress president's new narrative is full of promise; it remains to be seen how he will turn it into a reality. File pic
The clarion call
I'm writing this piece in Vidarbha's capital Nagpur, which once was a Congress fiefdom. Then, it didn't matter to people that the parent body of BJP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was founded here before spreading across the country, to be part of some governments and then form in its own governments at the Centre and in various states.
Those who wear Congress on their sleeves and nurture a century-old party in their hearts are happy to get some stability and popularity for the Gandhi-led political outfit. The people I'm talking about here do not hold any position in the Congress. They don't even call themselves Congress karyakartas. And yet, they are a core strength that religiously invests undying trust in the Gandhi family. I prefer to call them devotees of the family instead of Congress loyalists, because of the purity of their sentimental attachment with the Nehru-Gandhis.
Over the past one week, I have been interacting with some these devotees hailing from urban and rural areas. They talk wisdom that should benefit Rahul in redeveloping the ruins. They have a strong message for the man who decided to be different — an idealist. They say Rahul is doing what they have been demanding of him. They say the new president seems to have heard a collective voice that commoners like them have been raising for years together.
What does that collective voice say? It wants Rahul to re-establish a missing connect between the top leadership and the people who feel disowned by Congress. It probes to find a reason that obstructs a communication path between the top and the ground.
The obstacle, they say, are leaders who have used the party for their own gains, and unfortunately, Rahul continues to be surrounded by such leaders. Angry and frustrated, an unemployed postgraduate from a village in Nagpur district counted and named for me some senior Congress leaders here, who have built empires that will suffice for their own generations to come. For Congress, the story replicates itself elsewhere in Maharashtra and the rest of the country.
Old and new
My further interaction with many more dejected Congress devotees should ring an alarm bell for Rahul's Congress, in a changed scenario; more so when the president dreams of making it "a grand old new" Congress. How will he deal with the two — the old and the new — for achieving effective and long-lasting results? Will Rahul's idealism, which can be interpreted as 'going beyond the self', be practised by seasoned leaders in Congress? Will reckless profiteers in the party put in true efforts to make Congress a movement that Rahul envisages? Answers are hard to come by.
Apparently, Rahul has been able to give Congress a new lease of life. His adversaries are on tenterhooks, shaky and getting wild dreams in the wake of Congress president's campaign in Gujarat Assembly polls. Rahul has already emerged a hero, success or failure notwithstanding. Rahul's new narrative is full of promise but faced with a major hurdle. The real challenge for him is to rid the party of existing pests and fumigate the organisation for preventing any further rot.
Party sympathisers, workers and leaders, who pursue a social cause in their politics, are eager to watch Rahul out there in action on the field. Party veterans, who swear by their loyalty to the party and claimed to have remained spotless in their not-so-flourished careers, wish that Rahul learns from the past, especially from his grandmother, the late Indira Gandhi — the former Congress president and PM had gone through an equally painful and humiliating phase in her life; she rose from the ashes by cleaning the dirt within the party. Will Rahul be Congress' next Phoenix?
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Elections 2019: Kanhaiya Kumar criticizes ruling government