To stay relevant, Congress must elect a new leader fast

| Updated on August 24, 2020

The stonewalling at the CWC amidst the groundswell of support for the Gandhis lends credence to the belief that ‘dynasty politics’ is at work

A strong letter signed by 23 senior Congress leaders, questioning the state of affairs in the party, sparked off a fiery Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Monday — which, unsurprisingly, seems to have chosen to defend the status quo. The letter writers were ticked off, instead of the CWC debating the issues raised by them. The letter demanded “collective decision making” and complained about the drift in the party and its dwindling political influence. Indeed, concerns about strategy, leadership and organisational issues expressed by none other than the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad and other senior leaders including Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor, Veerappa Moily et al should have ideally invited serious deliberations. But it was clearly interpreted as a challenge to the leadership of the Gandhi family and provoked a public denunciation by family loyalists and influential figures including chief ministers of Congress-ruled States — Amarinder Singh, Bhupesh Singh Bhagel and Ashok Gehlot.

Rather than address the concerns expressed by senior party members, the media were informed even before the CWC meet that the interim President Sonia Gandhi wished to resign — quite like how Rahul Gandhi stormed out of the same office last year in the aftermath of party’s second consecutive Lok Sabha defeat. Since then, Sonia Gandhi has been a largely absent leader. The party, as the letter writers pointed out, has been rudderless and lost governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh followed by a close escape in Rajasthan. The stonewalling at the CWC amidst the groundswell of support for the Gandhis lends credence to the belief that ‘dynasty politics’ is at work, with the seat being kept in reserve for Rahul Gandhi.

Enough of such feeble theatrics: If the Gandhis are serious about either quitting or continuing as leaders, the only course left for them is to follow the Constitution adopted by the Indian National Congress. There is a clear provision in Article XVIII (h) of the Congress Constitution that provides for election of a new President in the event of the resignation of the sitting President. If Rahul Gandhi or anyone else who wishes to be Congress President is to have any credibility within the rank and file as also in the larger public, a genuine election is the only recourse. Just watching the Democratic Party process of nomination for the Presidential or the Vice-Presidential candidates should provide some clues about how real democracies actually function. Back home, even if the RSS is the power behind the BJP leadership, genuine qualities of leadership, mass following, strategic abilities often trump other criteria. Despite the number of detractors he had in the party, most notably LK Advani, Narendra Modi managed to get projected as the BJP’s PM candidate. It is time that the Congress too elects a leader with genuine credentials. It must rise to its democratic role of being a credible opposition at the national level.

Published on August 24, 2020

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