The grand old party of India, the Indian National Congress, which actively participated in the freedom struggle and liberated India from the British, is in a major crisis after the resignation of Rahul Gandhi as the president of the Indian National Congress. The party ruled over India for the majority of the period since India’s independence in 1947, except for a brief period of around 15 years as the Opposition party. Now, the Indian National Congress is fighting for its survival, with Congressmen clueless about how to bail itself out from the leadership crisis. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and regional parties are seemingly rejoicing in Congress’ miseries, as it is giving them an opportunity to consolidate their position in Indian politics and fill in the void created by the Congress.
According to political observers, Congress has fallen into the trap of its creation. The party has relied heavily on the Gandhis and never allowed other leaders to flourish. Rahul Gandhi’s great-grandfather, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, served as India’s first and longest serving Prime Minister of India, from 1947 until his death in 1964. His grandmother, Indira Gandhi, served as the second longest serving Indian Prime Minister, from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984. After that, Rahul Gandhi’s, father, Rajiv Gandhi served as the 6th Prime Minister of India from 1984 to 1989. P. V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh who served as the Prime Ministers of India were nominated for that position by the Congress president Sonia Gandhi; she is the mother of Rahul Gandhi. Italian born Sonia Gandhi was the longest-serving president of the Congress party, having held the office for nineteen years from 1998 to 2017, thereby the family enjoyed considerable clout in the powers of the corridor from behind the scene. For over 60 years, the family presided over the destiny of the nation, thereby solidifying the Gandhi family’s role in Indian politics.
Congress, which had successfully coined the slogan that “Indira Gandhi Is India, India Is Indira” lived in the belief that the sun would never set on their empire. The defeat in the 2019 elections came as a rude shock to the party, when Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the parliamentary elections for the second consecutive term, thereby exposing the Gandhi family charisma to win elections. According to political observers, the coterie of sycophants, self-serving leaders with no followers have besieged the party, and they are more to blame for the downfall of the party. Members of Congress expressed in private that power brokers and massless leaders are calling the shots, thereby non-deservings are occupying valuable party posts, and this has proved to be detrimental for the party. Political observers said the ill-advices of sycophants and the negative campaign of Rahul Gandhi against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “Chowkidar Chor Hai” meaning “Security Guard is Thief” did not go well among the masses, who see Narendra Modi as someone who is sincerely working for the welfare of the poor. They opined that the personal attacks during elections campaigns by 47 year-old Rahul Gandhi on 68 year-old PM of India Narendra Modi was not in good taste and unacceptable in the Indian culture, as elderly people are respected in India. The negative campaign painted an arrogant and immature picture of Rahul Gandhi, who is far away from Indian culture, and this finally eroded his credibility. Many party men still believe that Rahul Gandhi had recharged the party andthat the Congress was successful in winning Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh assembly elections under his leadership. But, after winning elections, the old guards and sycophants once again became active and didn’t allow him to make the changes in the party that Rahul wanted. After defeat in the parliamentary elections, Rahul Gandhi lambasted Congress veterans for not letting him make changes in the party as he wished to and pressurizing him to give tickets to their scions in the elections.
Now the party is in a catch 22 situation as Congress cannot leave the Gandhis—Rahul, Sonia, and Priyanka, and the party is short of a leader who commands respect in the party and can keep the party men united. According to political observers, eventually Sonia Gandhi (the longest-serving president of the Congress party) or Priyanka Gandhi (sister of Rahul Gandhi) will have to take the reins of the party to bail it out from the crisis and restore its past glory. With growing dissent in the party, and allies and Congressmen deserting the party in the states of Goa and Karnataka, the future doesn’t look promising for the grand old party of India. With the growing popularity of Narendra Modi and the failure of Congress’ election winning secularism and poverty alleviation formula, an uphill task may be in front of Congress for the new leader to regain its lost glory.