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Gandhi ghosts will haunt party

The Gandhis are charismatic but Rahul and Priyanka have proved that they are not vote catchers as was seen in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Kalyani Shankar | New Delhi |

Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress chief this week but will it solve the unprecedented situation in the party and end the present leadership crisis? After all, Rahul was only a part of the problem and there are many other issues which need to be addressed by the leadership as the organisation is almost defunct.

The first is that the family will continue to have control of the party even after someone from outside the Gandhi family becomes president. Remember what happened during the presidentship of P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri. Many Congressmen loyal to Sonia Gandhi rushed to 10 Janpath to voice their grievances and she also encouraged them.

The Congress-T, which was floated by Arjun Singh and N.D. Tiwari during Rao’s time, was in fact full of Sonia loyalists. If this was the situation with one Gandhi , you can imagine what could happen with three Gandhis in the party. In any case, Sonia Gandhi is the leader of the Congress Parliamentary party while Priyanka is the General Secretary.

So the Gandhi hold on the party will not reduce even an inch. Secondly, the party is likely to be headed by a weak president who would not be able to control factionalism and indiscipline which is visible in many states. When Rahul Gandhi, with the Gandhi stamp could not control these things, how could a weak non-Gandhi hope to deal with the problem?

The third will be about finances. The purse strings of the party will continue to be in the hands of the Gandhi family. Sonia Gandhi chairs many trusts including Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, and Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. She is also President of the Swaraj Bhavan Trust, Kamla Nehru Memorial Hospital Society and Jalianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust.

The new president will have to look to the family for even day-to-day expenses. Fourthly, Rahul Gandhi’s big failure was to develop a second rung of credible leaders though the family had held reins of the party for long. Even if the new president identifies new faces, the nod of the Gandhis may be required, as he will not have a free hand. The fifth is about the lack of the Gandhi mystique.

A lacklustre leadership is not what the party needs right now. The new leader should be able to provide confidence among the people that under his leadership the party would revive and emerge as an alternative to the BJP. The sixth is building up the organisation.

This would be a Herculean task because the party is dead in most states, which is evident from the way the Congress got zero seats in 17 states in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Rahul in his public letter of resignation on Wednesday warned of hard times ahead. He spoke of the radical change that the Congress needs to undergo to be the opposition voice.

To be fair to him, though he tried to reform the NSUI and the Youth Congress as Vice President, he could not succeed. His efforts in identifying Congress candidates also came to naught, as the party was not yet ready for his reforms. Whoever becomes the new president, the challenge for him will be to keep the party untied and gain the confidence of Congress workers who have been demoralised after the humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls.

This should be the priority for the successor with elections to some states like Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand just a few months away. He should be in a position to check the erosion in the party as is seen in some states like Telengana. The Congress is going through a very rough patch and lacks a charismatic leader who could steer the party through the difficult times.

The Gandhis are charismatic but Rahul and Priyanka have proved that they are not vote catchers as was seen in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Every party needs charismatic leaders, crowd pullers and vote catchers. Rahul and Priyanka seem to lack the last of the three qualities. Finally what will be the role of the Gandhi family? Sonia continues to be the CPP leader while Priyanka is the General secretary.

Only Rahul is not holding any office but he has decided to be active. By nominating Manmohan Singh as the prime minister and ruling the country through him for ten years from 2004 to 2014 Sonia Gandhi enjoyed power without holding any position in the government. With two of the three Gandhis in position how can anyone say that the family has distanced itself from the party?