To survive, the Congress should replace the Gandhis with competent, efficient and popular leaders outside the family.

Voices Opinion Monday, January 20, 2020 - 11:50

The brutality unleashed on the student protestors in Jamia Milia and JNU recently has now caused a nation-wide apprehension about the hardline rightwing ideology the ruling dispensation seeks to impose. A section of the largely apolitical electorate which supported BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, is now taken aback looking at the brute force with which the party is pushing its Hindutva agenda down the people’s throat. While the electorate thought that the party was going soft between 2014 and 2019, it was busy facilitating infiltration of every possible institution with RSS men. With all the institutions in their kitty, the BJP now has a free hand to realise its ‘Hindu Rashtra’ dream step by step.

Soon after their massive victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP led government started building their Hindu Rashtra by stripping Jammu and Kashmir of the special status, and slicing it into two Union Territories, completely disregarding the Parliamentary conventions of deliberation and consultation. The voice of dissent was brutally suppressed with detentions and restrictions. The rest of India was mute because they were unaffected and inadequately educated on the subject. As dissent is crushed across the nation through the CAA-NRC-NPR trinity, people are now waking up to the nefarious design of the fascist regime that seeks to silence any expression of a different opinion or thought.

Though these were all pre-poll promises the BJP made in 2019 and 2014, the neutral electorate which supported BJP during the election is now disgruntled because they did not approach elections intellectually. The emotional Indian voters who bank heavily upon idolising individuals, did not have a strong alternative to Modi, who according to them is the only national leader currently capable of fighting the enemies of the nation outside and within. The narrative of a Modi courageous enough to fight against Pakistan and corruption was slowly built over the decade, culminating in the massive Modi wave in 2014.

Despite policy paralysis and a drowning economy, the BJP won the 2019 Parliamentary election because voters did not consider any other leader fit enough to adorn the PM seat. The fact that the BJP swept Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in the election despite losing their state Assemblies barely a few months earlier, explains the logic.

UPA’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Rahul Gandhi, had absolutely no matching charisma or popularity, losing his very own Amethi. Though Modi cleverly avoided press conferences for several years, Rahul’s infamous ‘Frankly speaking with Arnab’ in 2014 showed how ill equipped he was, keeping him aside from the race till now.

The Congress government led by Sonia Gandhi as the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council through her proxy, Manmohan Singh, became unpopular due to several alleged scams and scandals. Now the voters are not ready to accept her ill equipped son as their Prime Minister. The people are ultimately fed up with the dynasty politics the Congress represents despite the unpopularity of the heir apparent with no proven credentials. In December 2015, the Winter session of the Lok Sabha came to a grinding halt with the Speaker apologising for her remark that “the (Congress) party had no national interest but only vested interest”. More than four years later, the Congress is still struggling to disprove this allegation.

Originally, the Indian National Congress (INC) was really democratic. Every state committee had its own chief elected by the state party cadre. At most times, the Prime Minister and the president of the ruling INC were two different people, independent of each other in their own spheres. Even Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the syndicate dissented and disagreed with each other on several key issues.

However with the arrival of Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister, the INC started losing its democratic character due to her unilateral moves not approved by the party. She even remarked “Here is a question of whom the party wants and whom the people want. My position among the people is uncontested,” referring to the party’s intention in making Morarji Desai the PM in 1967. In 1969, she was expelled from the party for ‘preference of personal loyalty over loyalty to the party’ as her supporter VV Giri won the Presidential election as an independent candidate against INC’s Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy.

Indira Gandhi continued in power as INC (Requisitionist) against which the original INC (Organization) lost in 1972 elections. The INC(O) later lost its identity by merging with Jana Sangh to form the Janata Party in 1977, winning the elections that year. Indira further carved out the INC (Indira) excluding those who deposed against her before the ‘Shah Commission’ set up to investigate various allegations of corruption against her and won the election in 1980.

History clearly shows that today’s Congress is the legacy of Indira Gandhi, stitched to accommodate her loyalists as members of her Cabinet and the Chief Ministers of states. After her demise, the party let her heirs Rajiv, Sonia, and Rahul Gandhi lead them.

Despite losing face in 2014 and 2019 under the Gandhis, the party has still not learnt its lesson. After Rahul’s resignation in 2019, the party is back under the shadow of his mother, now nurturing Priyanka Gandhi.

As the principal opposite party, the Congress miserably failed to educate the public about the ill effects of the fascist regime, their failure at all levels, of stripping the special status of Kashmir and of several other right wing agenda like CAA-NRC-NPR by holding discussions, lectures, debates, conferences and press release. With the anti CAA-NRC protests and the state brutality against dissenters, this is the right time for secular-liberal forces to gather public opinion to stop the fascist forces.

But is the Congress, with all its cadre strength across the nation, equipped with a popular leadership to replace Modi? To survive, the Congress should replace the Gandhis with competent, efficient and popular leaders outside the family in their interest and to safeguard the nation, its people and its Constitution from the fascist regime that is fast bulldozing the secular, democratic, deliberative, inclusive and liberal character of the Indian polity.

Nirmalkumar Mohandoss is an Advocate in the High Court of Madras. Views expressed are the author's own.