It has already been declared that Rahul Gandhi’s return to the party leadership will be a primary demand at the planned Congress ‘Chintan Shivir’ in Udaipur. Having been unable to right the party’s ship over the past couple of years, particularly in the face of internal criticism from the likes of G-23 leaders, the party is hoping the ‘shivir’ will do the trick. This the latest attempt after the recent negotiations with Prashant Kishor to find a path to recovery but, already, the clichés being spouted indicate nothing substantial can be expected. The decisions taken will be just as hollow as the one to grant an election ticket only to a single member of a family. Will that apply to the ‘royals’, and if it will, is it an attempt to prevent Priyanka Gandhi from becoming a challenge to Rahul Gandhi?
Under Rahul Gandhi’s eccentric leadership, whether he be the party president or not, Congress is increasingly getting on the wrong side of history. In fact, it is so caught up in its past glories that it fails to recognise the nature of present day India. Even though it has a traditional votebank in many parts of the country, it is increasingly alienating the new generation, particularly from the middle class, with its outdated politics. The greater the slide, the more desperate are the measures – such as the High Command support for Navjot Singh Sidhu that, broadly speaking, lost the party the state of Punjab.
The biggest dilemma, of course, is the role of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Most Congress supporters believe they need to remain centre-stage. Leaders with a better understanding and with some hold among the people realise that a new leadership needs to emerge. It must not only have the backing of ‘la famiglia’, but also the general cadre till such time the alternative takes shape. The search for quality leaders must go down to the grassroots and the opportunity provided for those who can deliver to rise up the ranks. It will definitely take time, but once rid of the Gandhi obsession, it will be possible to set their sights on the larger objective – finding an alternative to the BJP model of governance. It must not be forgotten that many of the ‘successful’ leaders of the opposition, such as Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar, were originally from the Congress. Instead of bleeding leaders, the focus should be on inducting fresh blood from among the performers at the grassroots. Even the Modi wave has to abate, eventually, and there should be a rejuvenated Congress ready and willing to take advantage.