DC Edit | Congress’ ideas needed, but its death inevitable

We may speculate, how long did Allan Octavian Hume think his idea, and initiative, would survive?

We may speculate, how long did Allan Octavian Hume think his idea, and initiative, would survive? He would perhaps have a bout of serious disbelief if he learnt that the relevance and fate of the political party he founded, the Indian National Congress, would still be in business in 2022.

But the Indian democracy is faced with the question, whose answer is not reaching a point of no return or doubt. The precipitous decline of the Congress, which has not just reached nadir but refuses to budge from there, is becoming a problem not for the party, its leaders and cadre, or whatever of it is still left, but because the country needs to locate its principal Opposition.

Herein lies the rub — the spirit and idea of the Congress — the idea of an Opposition force to the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological axis — is much needed. No democracy can operate without an Opposition and the opposition space in India cannot continue to exist in a vacuum. Nature abhors emptiness of such a kind, and seeks to fill it. So while Congress the party may be in coma, or in a state of irreversible slumber or even dying, Congress, the idea, is both alive and relevant.

Congress, the idea, is both alive and relevant because it is a platform for a largely secular and inclusive ideology, with a possible left-of-centre economic worldview and order. It is a viable answer to a Hindutva-led cultural renaissance model of the BJP, which is armed with hyper-nationalism and a highly efficient welfare delivery scheme which is universal, but which denies a large group based on religion political representation and power, and condemns them to the status of “the other” in every narrative.

That spirit is alive because Mamata Banerjee is ruling Bengal and was re-elected on the plank, an election in which she defeated the BJP last year. It is alive because Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy was able to wrest a mandate out of it in Andhra Pradesh. Congress, the spirit, is alive, but the party is dying.

Today is hardly located in an age of monopoly. The Congress believes in it more seriously than the children who play the game. Neither does the Congress Party have a monopoly over secular, liberal, democratic values, nor does India have any patience for a party which believes a family has a monopolistic right to rule.

The abuse and lampooning of Rahul Gandhi, or of late, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on social media and TV debates is condemnable but the criticism of the sibling duo as political failures is not wrong. Mr Gandhi has led the INC, reshaped and made relevant for over a decade by his mother Sonia Gandhi, to too many electoral debacles for the people to have patience with the empty promises of introspection or a “big change”.

The Congress refuses to change; and like a dinosaur, nature will fix it. The electorate will look at Ms Banerjee or Arvind Kejriwal for an answer. Whoever is willing to sincerely and smartly hold the flag of the idea of Congress will have a chance to fight, thrive and win.

But for the Congress with a symbol of a hand, headed by the Gandhi family, the party is over.

Next Story