With its spirited defence of the Gandhi family at the meeting of its Working Committee on Monday, the Indian National Congress has confirmed to the country that it is neither prepared to introspect, nor to allow any change in the way it is run. It has also shown that notwithstanding the long years that a leader may have spent in service of the party, even implied criticism of the Gandhi family is viewed as disaffection, and could be labelled as an act of collusion with the enemy.
While at the end of the day, the party might have adopted a resolution unanimously, its contents mirrored the arrogant disdain with which
even well-intentioned counsel is rebuffed. The anguish of Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mr Kapil Sibal at being labelled colluders may have been papered over with a facile explanation but will not go away easily. Mr Rahul Gandhi’s complaint that a letter written by a group of senior Congress leaders about the need for an organisational revamp was delivered when his mother, and the Congress president, was unwell, underscores the correspondents’ concern.
It is no secret that Mrs Sonia Gandhi has been unwell for some time, and on this ground alone ought never to have accepted the position of party president ~ even as an interim measure ~ when her son chose to step down in August 2019. That she did so, and then chose to do nothing to find a permanent solution for the next seven months ~ until Covid-19 surfaced ~ only confirms that a person outside her family had never entered her calculations.
While the Gandhis may believe they are entitled to their role as liege lords, and to view the mere act of writing the letter as a rebellion of ungrateful serfs, the fact is that many of those who signed the letter command influence of their own. Some like Mr Shashi Tharoor and Mr Sibal have more significant accomplishments outside the Congress than as members of the party.
It will be dishonest of them to accept, as the CWC resolution enjoins them to, that the two voices at the forefront of “exposing” the Government have been those of the Gandhi mother and
son, by implication to the exclusion of every other leader.
Equally, it ought to be difficult for them to accept without feeling humiliation that the letter to which they were party was aimed at undermining or weakening the party and its leadership, now defined in the resolution as the two Gandhis. Finally, the injunction against discussing the party’s affairs in the media or at a public forum is a clear warning for the future. It is possible the Gandhis are right in believing that they alone can revive the Congress’ fortunes. But if they are not, they will destroy an already bruised party.