t is in the interest of time that Congress changes itself to suit the aspirations of the people. Though the party may not completely be eliminated, but it may slowly fade away unless corrective steps are taken. Congress may argue that it was able to capture power in 2004 but there is a lot of difference between the Congress of 2004 and that of 2019; they are two different entities. The Congress of 2004 was not dubbed a corrupt party at that time, Sonia Gandhi being new to politics no negativity, got attached to her. The public did not know her son-in-law’s corruption yet. Her son had just entered politics and his inefficiency was not yet public. Congress was in power in quite a few states. But in 2019, the ball game changed completely. Congress is in power in six states constituting 6 per cent of the country. In many big states, it has been pushed to the margins or has lost relevancy. Above all Congress has to confront Modi-Shah duo who are a formidable opposition. The electoral politics also have changed remarkably putting the onus more on leadership and its strategy. The demanding scenario requiring the leadership to be proactive is too much for the party. However, it is reducing it is apparent.
When we study the history of Congress party, we find that Congress was raised from the ashes only when it had a charismatic leader or a strong wind blew in its favour due to the sympathy factor. The Indian National Congress is a “sinking ship”; many of us have heard that by now. Yet it’s a bit astonishing to think how far the political party has fallen. After all, until recently the history of Congress ran almost in parallel with the history of India itself to an extent where the line between these histories seemed blurred. Leaders of the Congress were the leaders of India and a large part of the Indian Freedom Movement owed its existence to this “grand old party” which was not just a political party, but also an umbrella organisation where different schools of thought used to co-exist together.
From Gandhi to Jinnah, from Nehru to Bose, from Tilak to Gokhale, Congress itself contained people poles apart from each other ideologically. And yet it not only remained as one party, but also went on to define the political system itself in India leading Dr. Rajani Kothari to coin the term “Congress System.” The organisational structure of Congress was so deep-rooted and entrenched that it reached to the grassroots level to the last man as a part of Gandhian idealism.
But Congress couldn’t uphold these ideals of working on the ground for as long as the people of India hoped it would. Much of Congress’ dominance at the center as well as the state level was due to the fact that people voted in the name of the Congress which had won freedom for the country. People felt almost indebted to the party and continued to bring them back to power in the hope that Swarajya (self-rule) would actually be realised on the ground and the days of Ram Rajya (the idyllic rule of Rama) which Gandhi used to mention in his speeches and writings would come. People waited for years, but neither Swarajya nor Ram Rajya came about. Instead, the people realised, nepotism and corruption were increasing day-by-day in the political system. It was not Ram Rajya but the Raaj of one family (the Gandhi family). The family alone accounts for three prime ministers who ruled the country for around 37 years while another 10 years of governance in the 21st century was also largely led by the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty.
Slowly, as disillusionment set in, the Congress system started to deteriorate. Still, it took around a decade for a non-Congress party to come to power in a state. Kerala did the honors when the left was voted to power in the 1957 legislative assembly elections. E.M.S. Namboodripad became the first democratically elected communist leader though Congress was still a huge force to reckon with.
But things were about to change tremendously, especially in the heartlands of India, where people were now looking for an alternative. They were angry with the false promises made by Congress politicians in election after election.
(The latter part of the edit will continue tomorrow)
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