With the Congress’s second devastating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, the party must answer a key question: can it afford to continue with dynastic politics as usual? At the Congress Working Committee meeting held on May 25, party president Rahul Gandhi is said to have offered his resignation, which was rejected by the committee.
Two days later, rumours circulated that he had refused to withdraw his resignation and urged party colleagues to look for a new chief. The poll defeat could not be occasion for casting aspersions on the role or conduct of any specific individual. It is true the Congress’s defeat is rooted in varied and complex reasons.
But as the party searches for “radical change and a complete organizational overhaul”, it fails to address the main criticism against it: that it is trapped in an undemocratic politics defined by family rule, sustained by sycophancy.
The Congress Working Committee meeting held on Saturday had the appearance of a durbar, with the Gandhis holding court. While Sonia Gandhi looked stony, daughter Priyanka Gandhi, a newcomer who was given the post of party general secretary, reportedly berated old courtiers for not supporting her brother adequately.
Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, dressed down senior Congress leaders for putting election tickets for their sons before the party’s fortunes. But these senior leaders did not come for campaigning for the party’s candidates in the elections.
A senior leader of the Congress party said that former union minister Chidambaram, MP chief minister Kamalnath and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Ghelot were said to have indirectly threatened Rahul that they would leave the party if their wards were not given tickets to contest in the elections.
And so the party had to bow them and issued tickets. Rahul had admitted that the party had suffered a humiliating defeat in the polls because of the leaders who considered the welfare of their wards first than the welfare of the party.
In the case of BJP, no tickets were issued to senior most leaders aged above 75 years and no posts were offered to them either. Some of the senior leaders of the BJP party stayed away from the polls on their own, a laudable gesture.
Rahul has said that this should be emulated by Congress also and that none of his family members would accept party president post. Even Priyanka Gandhi would not accept it he categorically stated.
This decision of Rahul will put an end to the dynastic politics in the party. Rahul Gandhi’s resignation will not solve the Congress’s problems, but it could be the first step towards freeing it from an ossified politics, ushering in the intra-party democracy that the Congress president once promised to restore.
Congress can be recovered from defeat only if new blood is infused in the party by offering important party posts to new comers and youngsters. Whether the Congress party will march forward lays in the diplomacy of Rahul Gandhi.
Youngsters in the party expect Rahul should continue his political journey taking victory and defeat on his stride and casting away talks of resigning from the party leadership. Will Rahul listen to them?