The Asian Voice

India's Congress party needs a surgical strike: Statesman columnist

Former senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia addresses the media at the Bharatiya Janata Party office in New Delhi on March 11, 2020.
Former senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia addresses the media at the Bharatiya Janata Party office in New Delhi on March 11, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

In her commentary, the writer says that Congress needs to address the internal power struggle that led to Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia's exit, as younger leaders feel stifled in the party while the old guard is not sure of the future.

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Will Jyotiraditya Scindia's exit become the beginning of the revolt in the Congress party?

Will more leaders emulate him and leave the sinking ship? There is speculation that more are waiting in the queue, mostly from Team Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who could leave if the party does not correct its style of functioning. They find that they have no future in the Congress.

On the other side, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is waiting with open arms to embrace them. Mr Scindia's exit is not just because of his ambition and the Congress party's denial of Rajya Sabha berth; there are multiple causes.

These include the leadership crisis, the status quo attitude of the leadership, weak decision- making style, no upward movement for the young Turks and the power struggle between the young leaders and the old guard.

They are frustrated that the Congress is not able to come up with a new narrative to counter the BJP strategy.

In short, it is the internal power struggle that led to Mr Scindia's exit as many younger leaders are feeling stifled in the party and the old guard is not sure of the future.

All these need to be addressed urgently. The discontent has been building up for long but it has reached a stage of revolt today.

The Congress Working Committee, the highest decision making body of the party boasts of an average age of seventy. Except Rahul and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, the younger lot has no representation.

It is nobody's case that the old guard should be removed altogether as a mix of young and old would go a long way in bringing freshness in the party.

The Congress earlier had found a formula to keep both the old and the young by involving them in decision-making.

Interestingly, today, the old guard too has its own grouses, as most of the senior leaders are not sure of their future if there is a complete transition in power.

That is why they don't want to give up their control over the party and are blocking the fresh blood. In a party where neither the young nor the old are satisfied with the way things are, this kind of revolt is bound to happen sooner or later.

 
 
 

The genesis of the present crisis could be traced to the party's defeat in 2014. Many felt that there would be some introspection but nothing happened and the party began to lose state after state. When it lost the 2019 polls the desperation began to build up.

Many leaders - senior and juniors - have deserted the party for greener pastures including some former chief ministers, former ministers, some PCC presidents and other party functionaries.

Most of them have been gifted to the BJP, which has embraced them all and is willing to import more. Team Rahul felt orphaned after the resignation of Rahul Gandhi as the party president in August 2019.

The time has come for serious introspection and the party can no longer afford to postpone it. While the old guard is philosophical and feels that the party has to pass through this bad phase, the young Turks are impatient and see no future in the Congress.

It is nobody's case that the 135- year old grand Old Party will disappear in a day but the Congress has to help itself by moving on, and reinventing and restructuring the party to be in step with the changing times.

It has survived many such crises in the past despite the doomsayers predicting that it will vanish. It could survive again only if the party managers take some corrective action urgently.

Since the party is stuck with the Gandhi family it is this family which should take immediate steps to restore the health of the party. Or it should leave.

The first thing is to resolve the leadership crisis. After all this decision has to be taken within the family.

Then comes the reorganisation and restructuring of the party. The Congress has to fight not only the national but also the regional forces emerging in many states.

With three Gandhis at the helm, the family should assure the discontented elements that they would have a future in the party. Faced with a bleak future, the Congress leaders should feel assured that there is enough space for the young and the old guard.

For all these, the party needs a strong leadership. But before all this, the Madhya Pradesh crisis needs to be addressed.

Though chief minister Kamal Nath is trying to get back the legislators who had left with Mr Scindia and is confident of proving his majority, resort politics go on. Even if it survives it is a fact that the party needs a surgical strike. Unless timely medicine is given, it will become a terminal case.

The writer is a senior journalist. The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.