The celebrated adage “in adversity lies strength” does not appear to have any relevance in the Congress party. Close to a fortnight after a devastating electoral verdict.

It appears to be so shell-shocked that it is unable to indicate to its dejected cadres even the sketch of a plan to bounce back, convert its current battle for survival into a revival-oriented endeavour. The party is headless during this time of crisis.

After announcing a desire to step down from its presidency, but taking no formal step in that direction, Rahul Gandhi has been sulking rather than putting in place an alternative apparatus to which the cadres could turn for guidance, and stem the flow toward other parties.

This needs to be done before the domino effect leaves it forlorn. Yet Rahul is not the only one to blame for such craven abdication of responsibility. True that while Sonia and Priyanka would have personal interests in pressuring Rahul to stay on, no other member of the coterie that surrounds the Gandhis appear to have the guts to tell Rahul that rather than the party remain in indefinite limbo he nominate a successor ~ even if only for a limited period.

The orchestrated chorus chanting paeans in his praise is dying down; surely Rahul cannot expect more vocal adulation before he takes a decision ~ one way or the other. Whether he, and the sycophants in the Gandhis’ circle like it or not, the Congress is not a family fiefdom and they cannot condemn it to death without them ~ unless Priyanka tries a second unsuccessful “plunge”.

Over the years, starting with Indira Gandhi, the palace did not permit the growth of a second rung of leadership, so finding a successor to Rahul appears difficult.

Rahul furthered that process when, reportedly aided by his sister at the post-poll “review” by the Congress Working Committee, he lashed out at the one man seemingly posited to fill the breach, P Chidambaram.

Having suffered electoral rejection Jyotiraditya Scinidia would probably be too embarrassed to make a bid, and much of the old guard are spent-bullets. Yet while the Gandhis scrape the bottom of the barrel for an acceptable “regent”, the party finds itself in deepening crises in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In Punjab too, Navjot Singh Sidhu is making a few noises which would have been silenced if the party had effective leadership.

The new Lok Sabha’s maiden session is not far off, but the Congress has not announced its floor leader to try and give substance to Rahul’s “threat” to convert the 52 members into a formidable force ~ it has abandoned hopes of seeking leadership of the Opposition, maybe because few others would back that bid.

Shashi Tharoor did tell a TV interviewer he would relish such an opportunity ~: could that have thus scuttled any chances he might have had? Ambition is synonymous with poison in the “family’s” lexicon.