Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sonia’s return

Sonia Gandhi’s return as Congress president as an interim measure has brought to an end the leadership vacuum since the party’s massive defeat in the recently held Lok Sabha elections. It appears that the party has been forced to look towards and depend on the Nehru-Gandhi family for revival of the party’s electoral fortunes in the coming elections in different states of the country. This move appears to be a superficial move on the part of the party after the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which met for a whole day for selecting a successor to Rahul Gandhi after his resignation following party’s defeat in the Parliamentary elections. It is worth noting that Sonia Gandhi held this post for about 17 years when Rahul Gandhi succeeded her almost two years back for leading the party to revive the power struggle in the country. Rahul Gandhi perhaps did not succeed to infuse fresh life into the party despite starting on a membership drive and put in place all the units in states with committees and including younger faces at the helm of affairs for presenting a new look to the people. His resignation put the party in a tailspin and uncertainty creating leadership vacuum for the time. While the collapse of the party was on his watch, its vitals had been corroded in the years before he took over. It has been felt that holding that post for nearly two decades was unwise, the cardinal failure of Sonia Gandhi’s leadership was in not preparing the ground for a transition, even if it were to be within the family. Rahul Gandhi who was to take over as party president, did not join the government, undermining his credibility as a Prime Ministerial aspirant. Sonia Gandhi allowed politics to be reduced to intrigues in her durbar, Rahul Gandhi spent his time on misjudged priorities such as revamping the student and youth wings of the party. But, interestingly, the Congress did not embark on fresh membership drive among the youth and failed miserably in reviving the party schooling structure in view of strong opposition from the old guards, who do not enjoy mass base and are ruling the roost in the power struggle for the party. The old guards continued to engineer intrigues for the failure of younger leaders across the country, wherever elections were held for the assembly elections. In her second stint as party chief, Sonia Gandhi must exercise her authority to not only pave the way for a smooth transition of leadership but also ensure that the role of the family in the party is re-imagined. It is true that in the absence of any coherent unifying thought – as evidenced in the squabble among its leaders over the Centre’s decision to unilaterally change the constitutional status of J&K – the family has been the glue that held the Congress together. However, what used to be the best solution for all crises in the Congress – the surname – is itself a crisis for the party, in the current political climate. The repeated attacks on Nehru-Gandhi legacy by the right wing forces and those ruling the roost in the corridors of power has to some extent contributed to diminishing influence of family, but the fact is also that an increasing number of people abhor dynasty politics and the privileges associated with it. Sonia Gandhi has a chance, to proactively help the old guard and the younger generation within the Congress to reconcile their differences and devise a common purpose of existence. At the helm of the party affairs once again, Sonia Gandhi must now focus on ending the centrality of the family in Congress, in a thoughtful manner. Moreover, it is important that the party revival cadres besides their political schooling are accorded priority for reviving its base and restore internal party democracy so that voice of dissent and suggestions for improving the party network have enough space. This will attract new and emerging youth in the party besides infusing new blood in the working of the Congress party.