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Embattled Congress

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The ‘Indian National Congress’ celebrated its 134th Foundation Day on Friday. The mood in the cadre must have been good following the recent electoral victories after nearly being wiped out from the political scene. Yet, those who support the party must look with trepidation at the coming days, particularly the 2019 General Elections, because despite the recovery, the party faces marginalisation as never before. This is not just because of the Modi led BJP, but also the emergence of independent-minded regional leaders who are disinclined to offer it any kind of leadership role. They realise that the Congress can only offer a dynast as the prime ministerial candidate of any future coalition, which basically undermines their own identities.
There are absolutely no illusions among the opposition parties about Rahul Gandhi’s leadership capabilities. In fact, going by their recent attitude, SP’s Akhilesh Yadav and BSP’s Mayawati are unwilling even to consider the party a political player in UP. It also plays second fiddle to the RJD in Bihar. Election analysts feel that the Congress can only play a role in about a third of the Lok Sabha seats and only if it prevails against the BJP. In the case of an anti-BJP mood, it is the regional parties that will take most of the seats. Why should they play second-fiddle to the Congress?
It is one thing for the Congress to lose or win in states where it is a straight contest with the BJP, as it still retains a traditional votebank, but it is quite another in states where it has little hope of becoming a player. The problem is with its ideology, which has been emasculated to the point where just loyalty to a family remains the single unifying factor. It is easy to make claims on secularism, but these have been exposed more than once. In terms of developmental philosophy and economics, it is heavily dependent on ‘outside’ advice, largely based on populist appeals. There is no over-arching design for the future.
The reason for these failings is obvious. Merit doesn’t count and any ‘tall poppies’ are cut down. Its intellectual class is largely alienated from the grassroots, something amply visible in the sophistry of Shashi Tharoor, or the pernickety legalese of several hot shot lawyer-politicians. This has promoted a culture of adopting causes for convenience, rather than commitment. It abandoned its founding principles a long time ago and, going by the assessment of its own great leaders, has long outlived its usefulness. It cannot acquire relevance by merely returning to power, because even that has not worked. So, the celebrations are mere ritual, as the fundamental challenge still remains unaddressed.