In the 2022 assembly elections, Congress got crushed in all five states, including Punjab. It would be a great disaster for Indian politics if it reduced the Indian National Congress to a mere billboard. Days after the party’s defeat, Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked the chiefs of the five state units — Ajay Kumar Lallu in Uttar Pradesh, Navjot Singh Sidhu in Punjab, Ganesh Godiyal in Uttarakhand, Girish Chodankar in Goa and Nameirakpam Loken Singh in Manipur — to resign. She still believes changing the party chiefs can change the fate of Congress, but failed to understand that Congress needs a change in leadership. A healthy democracy definitely needs the active presence of responsible political parties.
The Congress has its organizational framework throughout the entire nation. Its present leaders are incompetent in teamwork vital for the organisation. They don’t want to retrospect anything on ground level. They never credit those Congress leaders who are pouring some sense into the party. The leadership needs to really work on their incapacities.
Though Sonia Gandhi gave ten years of supremacy to the Party, she could not reinforce the fundamentals whatever might be the reason. Essentially, the congress reign was more focused on staying in power than strengthening the organisation. And whatever steps she took for the same, backfired especially because of their status quo attitude. The fall actually started during Indira’s reign itself, accelerated during Rajiv’s, but the unfortunate demise of both brought back Congress on sympathy waves. The BJP was not as aggressive as it is now. Somehow BJP created the worst perceptions about Congress. They damaged their roots in history. From Nehru to Indira, they attacked all that was possible.
Meanwhile, Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, like crusaders, successfully created anger against Congress and Gandhi’s family, calling them the most corrupt and Muslim sympathisers. Most of the Indian voters took to Saffron sentiments, the division further widened in the name of Hindu-Muslim. It silently projected the Congress party as an anti-national party. Sonia’s predominance was quite known for Vajpayee government miscalculation with alliances and “Shining India” misfiring. In the present era, Narendra Modi stumped her and Congress by calculating the past events.
Congress could not change itself with the aspirations of the changing demography. Congress is the same as Indira’s congress. Whereas Modi’s BJP could read the pulse of a young generation that feeds on WhatsApp and social media. So, information or manipulating news with the help of media houses becomes way easier for them. The silent WhatsApp campaigns did an extraordinary job for them. Congress took time to realise the power of social media. By the time they came into the picture, it damaged their image to the core.
Indira Gandhi was a great prime minister but a disastrous party leader. She fostered the Nehru dynasty to control the national party. Something ruthlessly decimated Congress party members with experience of working at grassroots to make way for sycophants of ‘the family’; today the Congress party is bereaved of people with leadership qualities. A ‘family’ member surrounded by bootlickers ruled it. The renaissance of the party is essential for the functioning of a healthy democracy in India. Congress party lacks leaders; all those old guards are side-lined, some just left Congress and joined others for their political fortune.
Congress survived 71 years mostly on the goodwill of Gandhi and Nehru surname because India’s education system has institutionalized and attributed India’s freedom to a lot of extents to Gandhi and Nehru duo, so it was obvious for the crop of this education system to believe and trust congress more than others. Congress survived post-Indira Gandhi’s only cause, pseudo-secularism, India by and large was still illiterate and mainstream media was a tool in the hand of government (even today it’s the same). In addition, most of India’s population still did not have access to the internet until 2010. By the time of 2014, Ambani gave net packs and affordable phones to every citizen, the internet revolution gave more power to BJP and its IT cell.
With the Internet and social media, everyone now has a voice and reach. The Internet aided further reach and propaganda. It became a make-or-break tool in powerful people’s hands. Meanwhile, Congress slipped into a leadership crisis, Congress lost the confidence of the majority. Congress dynasty politics and brownnoser culture became old-fashioned; if these problems are not addressed right now it will lead to demise.
The ideology that they represent – centrist liberal – will always be there. Votes swing like a pendulum from left to right, but it always settles around the centre. Congress was written off in 1977, when it was wiped off from the entire northern part of the country, winning just 8 or 9 seats (though it made a strong showing in the southern states). Three years later, it came back with a vast majority. It was again written off in 1989 and then in 1996. In 1998, many people said that the BJP yug has started and it will rule for the next 30-40 years. Till 2013 Congress-ruled and now it’s sinking inconceivably. They need to reunite their strength and work on root levels. Ahead of 2024, some major changes can give them a greater breather.