-Vidya Bhushan Rawat
The Congress Party has lost miserably and it need to introspect seriously on what went wrong. The party must decide as what kind of policies it would have and need to strengthen the organisation at all level. Like all Centrist parties, Congress of late has become, organisation of managers and connectors who can easily shift to other parties if their ‘ needs’ are not fulfilled. Gone are the days when the chamchas would defend the family and come in the street. The Gandhis were a brand but today it has become a burden and it is not because they all cant get the votes or have been corrupt but because of a sinister propaganda and hate campaign against them unleashed by the political opponents since 2010 after Anna’s movement was launched. Today, the average middle class consider them un-Indian and heavily corrupted and no attempt has been made to undo or respond or appeal to political parties not to engage in mudslinging.
After the Exit Poll results came, the first person to call Congress’s ‘death’ was Yogendra Yadav. Most of those who have seen knows him well. He runs a political party and attempted his best to be leader of ‘people’s movement’ at various platforms. It was more surprising that Yadav continue with his tirade in the newspapers which became the biggest tools. Now, you can not discuss things on the presumptions of the Exit Polls. Secondly, with putting your focus on the party or parties who got defeated in this heavily toxic and uneven campaign in terms of media coverage, usage of official machinery, doubts of EVMs and their safety, communal polarisation, you are diverting the attention from the issues which we should have been discussing. Unfortunately, Yogendra Yadav, Ramchandra Gua started this campaign when the international media was focusing how democracy in India is endangered as media surrendered tamely but then both these gentlemen part and parcel of that crony media circle would not speak against poisonous propaganda as they appear in these newsrooms on a regular basis in the name of ‘alternative’ voices. A foreign columnist posted a video of live discussion on Indian TV channels and said that he was stopped by the anchor, his mikes were muted, comments rejected as ‘unacceptable’ when he made a critical note about India entering into dark age with growth of fascist forces, monopolisation and heavy handed state apparatus. One can read Pankaj Mishra’s scathing piece in The New York Times as well as the edit page article in the Guardian on how the west perceive Indian elections.
I dont say that parties should not introspect but when media start hounding those who have been thrashed as why you got thrashed and very cleverly change the narrative which was there just one day before the counting started, it shows how they have become the biggest criminals in hiding facts and diverting attention. Why no discussion on role of media, role of election commission, malpractices, deletion of names of people from voter list, hounding of Dalits and Muslim voters in different places, ED, IT raids on opposition parties during the campaign, role of money, communal polarisation, NRC and others. Can media discuss these issues now ? I am sure, they dont have the spine to do so.
It is not that Congress Party or Rahul Gandhi did not do anything wrong but what absolve Kamalnath, Jyotiraditaya, Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gahlot, Sachin Pilot and others. As much as eight chief ministers lost election including Shiela Dixit, Ashok Chavan, Harish Rawat etc. Who is responsible for this ? Shouldn’t they take responsibility.
It is true that the onus lies on the leader but it is also a fact that Rahul Gandhi took over Congress Party a few years back and started focusing. Many things were improving. Definitely, he is not a great orator and secondly he also tried to imitate Modi and Kejriwal in ‘Jumla’. The dialogue Chowkidar Chor hai and Modi gave Rs 30000 crore to Anil Ambani was a complete disaster. I am surprised who were the advisers who gave him this idea to attack individual personally in public. When you talk of decorum then this was not decorum. His advisers should have informed how V P Singh who fought against Rajiv Gandhi was always respectful towards Gandhi family and never crossed the limits of decency. It was the other way round that the chamchas like K K Tiwari, Kalpnath Rai and other spineless leaders were let loose against V P Singh abusing him and insulting him but they failed.
Rahul Gandhi and his family has become the biggest target of the insults heaped upon them today. I think broadly he has been decent and polite in his dialogues but one question the Congress party has to respond whether it will try to be a B team of hindutva or stand with the ideals of defending India’s diversity and pluralism. I am not speaking of ‘secularism’ because todays Congress leaders cant defend it at all. My point is that on this point of National security and rule of law, Congress’s response was almost naught. The advisers told him to speak about ‘unemployment’, Rafael, corruption etc but avoid the communal polarisation, the poison being spread. If you were in North East, Bengal then what was Congress’es response to NRC. There were no mention of mob lynching incidents or violence against the Dalits. No attempt to reach adivasis that way they feel comfortable. Congress was avoiding these issues so disgustingly that when BJP raised the issue of 1984 anti Sikh Violence, they could not respond properly. It was good that Rahul Gandhi apologised and said things in a categorical way but still Kamalnath and many others remain part of party structure. Strangely, the party could not ask BJP and RSS its role in various disturbances, anti Muslim violence in different parts of the country since 1947. It did not ask any question how Odisha became a laboratory for Hindutva when it unleashed anti christian propaganda which ultimately resulted in violence in Kandhamal and then the murder of Gram Stains. Congress will have to explain whether it will defend secularism and Nehruvian ideology of inclusion and celebration of diversity or not.
Congress has to understand that the Savarnas are not going to return to it that easily. It wanted votes of Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs but it has not developed any credible faces of these sections in the party. Despite all suggestions, it still looked for brahmins in Uttar Pradesh and sidelined the Muslims. I had long advocated alliance between Congress and BSP at the national level but what Congress did in Madhya Pradesh was attempt to break BSP despite their support. The old guard in Congress are very dangerous and have no ideology except jugad. Politics today can not be done through backrooms maneuvers but your work must be visible on the ground. Despite Prakash Ambedkar’s statement of alliances, Congress was not ready to give them seats and finally resulted in their rout. What did Congress do to reach out various communities ? Nothing.
Many people felt that Jyotiraditya or Sachin Pilot or Shashi Tharoor are the right choices but they are just right because some of us like their ‘good’ English. Frankly speaking they dont have the capacity or ideological strength to fight against the toxic ideology of Hindutva. Nobody say that you speak one thing against other but if we can just remember how the country progressed during the independence period and Nehru’s determination to fight against communal poison then situation in India today is similar and need a colossal figure who could inspire the nation.
But I would not like to hound Rahul Gandhi as many did it. The problem in today’s congress is that it is a party of sycophants and leaders who feel ideology has nothing to do with elections. I think for Gandhis are the best brand for Congress even at this moment yes they must ensure that a new leadership is emerged and for that they need lots of ideas and opening up of their spaces for committed people. At the professional level Rahul Gandhi tried hard but I dont think the party has a well oiled machinery on the ground. Congress ignored small parties and organisation which could have brought new social base to it. Congress still can provide a radical platform to Dalits, Adivasis, OBCS and Muslims as it is still a brand and exists all over the country. Gandhis and Congress are brands and it will be difficult to build up any new brand that can challenge BJP or Narendra Modi as the challenge can only come from them alone provided they speak up candidly, build up party with those who are committed to party ideology. Define your party’s ideology categorically as none of the karykartas knows what is ideology.
In a TV interview to Ms Arfa Khanam Sherwani of The Wire, Rahul Gandhi said that it was Congress Party alone which fought against BJP or Narendra Modi and he virtually looked down upon and rejected the role of many known and unknown activists, students leaders, writers and journalists who have been engaged in particularly through their writings in alternative spaces or public protests against injustice and culture of hatred. In the absence of political opposition, the cultural groups were more vocal against the politics of hatred than a Congress party worker who is no different than the BJP wallah when ‘ideological’ issues come. It is hear, we will need drastic changes in the attitude of the party. Even if Rahul Gandhi support his party’s view on Sabarimala issue, we wanted to know what was his ‘personal’ view on the same.
Congress President may also ask all the former Congressmen to join hands again and build up a presidium kind of a thing or giving each state leader a good team and focusing on state issues. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka showed what is wrong with congress pattern of governance. If Congress can bring together its former members into party fold, develop strong independence leadership of various communities and regions and no to public display of religiosity or equal distances from religion and declare it an absolutely personal issue, build your narrative on National Security and be careful of 24X7 obsession with Modi. Focus on rebuilding, prepare for state elections, build local alliances, build intellectual and cultural Congress ideological train the leaders and the karykartas.
The party has to think but merely blaming Rahul Gandhi will not work but playing at the hands of those who want to eliminate Congress completely. I am sure the Gandhis understand it well that India will not accept that they are last serving members and people will not accept any more from the family but at the moment the need is to develop leaders and build the party brick by brick. Congress need to unlearn many things including its brahmanical biases and arrogance of ‘history’. Let it acknowledge big mistakes that the party made in the past and rectify those. Let it also talk about Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Periyar, Ayyankali, Jyoti Ba Phule, Bhagat Singh , Maulana Azad, Tagore, Vivekananda and many others who fought against culture of hatred and injustice. We definitely dont want death of a party which was part of our freedom movement, had a great legacy of providing spaces to not only diverse regions but also to diverse political thoughts and ideologies. Congress need to build again the rainbow coalition for national unity which Gandhi built during early years of the party. Party also need to understand that it does not live in past but provide a vision to the people for future. It only need to democratise further and build state leadership who can win state on their own. Reviving the party is essential when we do not have other pan India social and political coalition to counter the propaganda unleashed upon us and therefore India still need congress to provide space to all those who want a credible pan India alternative to the current dispensation.