Will Rahul Gandhi’s resignation resolve the crisis of the Congress Party?

Written by Vidya Bhushan Rawat | Published on: July 8, 2019

His critique of RSS will only be acceptable if Congress, which ruled for over 50 years, too admits that there were leaders in the party who had a soft corner for the Sangh Parivar and Hindutva. We have no issue with leaders who are believers, astiks or naastiks, but the Congress party must admit that while Nehru’s Congress the ideological strength to fight against the SanghParivar, Congress started tilting towards Hindutva after Indira Gandhi’s return to power in 1982.

Rahul gandhi
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has ultimately resigned. He had resigned immediately after the massive defeat of his party during the general elections but the loyalists in the party dragged the issue for too long, hoping that he would be persuaded to take his resignation back. However, they failed. Rahul tweeted his lengthy resignation letter to his party and to the general public. He thanked his party workers and felt proud of the Congress party, yet felt that somebody had to take the responsibility, and that accountability starts at the top. "Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as president of the party.”

There is no doubt about the fact that Rahul campaigned with all his heart, though it needed a bit more strategy and flexibility. He, perhaps, never realized that the slogan ‘chowkidarchorhai’ and his accusation that Anil Ambani was given Rs 30,000 crore by Modi in his bank account, went on for a bit too long and ultimately, became totally monotonous. Rahul stood alone when he took on Modi and Ambani directly, as his party colleagues refused to follow his line. The fact of the matter is that all the political commentators, who have known Congress and Rahul’s father Rajiv, know it very well that the Ambani’s benefitted from the Gandhi family the most. KapilSibal, AbhishekSanghvi, P. Chidambaram as well as former President Pranab Mukherjee were considered to be too close to the Ambani’s. Hence Rahul’s attack became useless as his party people themselves were not convinced about the Ambani’s.

While there is no doubt that NarendraModi and his party fought this election no holds barred, including absolutely undignified assaults on the Gandhi’s andRahul Gandhi’s great grandfather,JawaharLal Nehru, Congress leadership also failed to counter it.  Rahul’s attack on Modi was, also, not always dignified. His discomfort with Hindi was clearly visible when many a times, his sentences about Modi crossed the limits of decency.

Rahul did not bother to question Modi’s record on minorities, particularly Muslims,and the increasing incidents of mob lynchings, nor did he bring up the issue of loss of jobs in the government sector. Why should the minorities and marginalized come along with him, if he has no agenda for them? It is imperative that Rahul Gandhi should not forget the Nehru mantra and that he should read and re-read his speeches. If he had no time for that, he should have listened to them, particularly on issues of SanghParivar and its hate agenda, and the last interview of Nehru with a foreign journalist, before his death in 1964. Unfortunately, Rahul’s advisers persuaded him not to even talk about Muslims in his rallies. Rather, Congress leaders went overboard in claiming that he is a Shiva Bhakt and a janeu-dhari, which was completely farcical. One does not need to show one’s jjaneu to fight against the SanghParivar. They cannot ask AkhileshYadav or Mamta Banerjee, or even Jagan Reddy, about this. Secondly, janeu itself is about caste supremacy. A majority of the Bahujans, who are counted as Hindus in the census, are denied the right to wear it. A majority of the Bahujans are denied dignity and basic human rights in the caste structure. Rahul Gandhi’s speeches had nothing to offer to the Dalits and Muslims because of the fear of a ‘Hindu’ backlash. It happens because of an ambiguity in ideology, otherwise who can say that the circumstances today are not as vitiated and dangerous as during the partition, when Nehru fought with all his might against the attempt to create a Hindu theocratic state in India. The ambiguous ‘love’ that he often invoked is nothing in the absence of a substantial stand on and against the hate projects of the Sanghparivar, particularly against the Muslims.
In his resignation letter, Rahul talks about ‘standing alone’ when he says that “We fought a strong and dignified election. Our campaign was one of brotherhood, tolerance and respect for all of India's people, religions and communities. I personally fought the Prime Minister, the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS) and the institutions they have captured with all my being. I fought because I love India. And I fought to defend the ideals India was built upon. At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it. I have learned so much from the spirit and dedication of our workers and party members, men and women who have taught me about love and decency,"

An important point in Rahul Gandhi’s resignation letter is about the collapse of institutions. I think this is a very valid point and protecting our institutions should be the top agenda of all the political parties. Powerful governments, including those of his grandmother’s as well as his father’s, have always demolished institutions. Modi has not invented anything new; he is purely following in the footsteps of what Mrs Indira Gandhi did in 1975, which also led to the collapse of the institutions then. Modi has mastered the art of sophistry and he knows how to use it well. He has managed to charm the middle class, which wasthe victim of Emergency, to such an extent that they are enjoying this modern Emergency voluntarily, as long as the Gandhi’s and their families be made responsible for all the evils and ills of India.
The issue of not merely EVMs but also of the autonomy and independence of the Election Commission is one of great concern. It is essential for all the parties to protect its integrity and ensure that it remains autonomous. Rahul Gandhi said, "A free and fair election requires the neutrality of a country's institutions; an election cannot be fair without arbiters - a free press, an independent judiciary, and a transparent election commission that is objective and neutral. Nor can an election be free if one party has a complete monopoly on financial resources.”He further adds, "We didn't fight a political party in the 2019 election. Rather, we fought the entire machinery of the Indian state, every institution of which was marshalled against the opposition. It is now crystal clear that our once cherished institutional neutrality no longer exists in India." He goes on to say that “the stated objectives of the RSS, the capture of our country's institutional structure, is now complete. Our democracy has been fundamentally weakened. There is a real danger that from now on, elections will go from being a determinant of India's future to a mere ritual.”
The question is why should our state institutions and apparatus not be made absolutely non-political and completely dedicated to fair values of our constitution? Why should they be either Gandhian or leftist or Sanghis? Why can they not be told to adhere strictly to the constitution, international human rights covenants and laws?  Why can the officers not be sensitized on the issues of untouchability, gender justice, caste discrimination as we are a society of caste hierarchies which destroy our national unity?
The problem in Rahul Gandhi or liberal secular’s approach is that they wish to inform us that India has suddenly become illiberal and that we were such a ‘great’ society in the past.  The critique of RSS will only be acceptable if Congress, which ruled for over 50 years, too admits that there were leaders in the party who had a soft corner for the SanghParivar and Hindutva. We have no issue with leaders who are believers, astiks or naastiks, but the Congress party must admit that while Nehru’s Congress the ideological strength to fight against the SanghParivar, Congress started tilting towards Hindutva after Indira Gandhi’s return to power in 1982. The party became a hotbed of all the manipulators who did not shy away from creating artificial and alternative political leaderships. Bhindarwale did not emerge as a leader on his own but because Indira Gandhi felt he could counter the Akalis better than others. The Man Mohan Singh government’s free hand to Ramdev, Anna Hazare and ArvindKejriwal was with the same thought, that it would destroy BJP. It did not turn out that way and Anna’s movement crushed Congress’s dream, like VP Singh in the 1990s. Today, the party is unable to mount an attack on Modi on the corruption issue because its own track record is abysmal and horrific. None would believe that Congress is a party of ‘honest’ secular leaders when likes of Kamalnath, Narayan Rane, Sanjay Nirupam, and many others like them, are around.
Rahul Gandhi’s letter was more focused on the BJP, which is right, but it must be admitted that BJP did not win the elections out of the blue. It worked hard, whether at the social media, broadcast media or grassroots level. He talks about funds but everybody knows that when Congress was in power, it also received large amounts of money from the industries. Congress might talk of electoral reforms, but all its intentions look farcical when you see what they do in power. It is never a part of their agenda then. The Congress Party is still unclear about its stand on the EVMs. If the party feels that the electoral process was compromised, and we all agree to it, why did the party not come out with a clear stand and oppose the election results or ask for more proof. The party wanted to be in the good books of the government and at the same time, never stood with people who were fighting at the cost of their lives. Rahul talks of GauriLankesh but how many times did the Congress party cadres really come to thedefense of people like her? Karnataka has Congress government but the process of investigation into her murder was slow. Similarly, in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,the mob lynching incidents did not stop. In Madhya Pradesh, people are openly blaming Kamalnathfor being inaccessible and worse than his processor, Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Did leaders like Kamalath sabotage Rahul Gandhi’s arrival on the national scene? When Rahul Gandhi is asking for accountability, why has no chief minister from the three states, where Compress came to power in barely six months ago, resigned? Why are they not taking responsibility for this big letdown? When they won, the media reported that it was not Rahul’s victory but that of these leaders. Now, when Congress got wiped out in these states, it is Rahul’s defeat and these netascontinue to enjoy power.
Rahul Gandhi stands alone as Sonia’s coterie does not want a radical Congress which can take BJP or RSS head on. The brahmanical lobby in Congress still feels, and it is true too, that at the end of the day, the people will look to Congress when they are frustrated with BJP, and hence they don’t want to antagonize their caste structure, dominated by the Brahmins, even when most of them are not voting for Congress. How can a party survive if it does not have ideological strength to fight against politics of hatred and division? Rahul Gandhi must state how many Congress leaders have spoken out against the politics of hatred and division? Can we really believe that today’s Congress leaders can speak with the conviction of ideology on the issue of hatred and division?
Rahul Gandhi’s resignation letter is a stricture passed against the old guard of the Congress party, a majority of who are part of CWC and might have contested elections several decades ago. When people suggest MotiLalVoraas the President of the party, then it shows how far the Congress Party has moved away from the people. When India is young and aspiring, Congress party leaders are going the other way round and unable to see the warning. Congress needs a collegium and ofcourse, Gandhi’s will remain at the helm of the party as they are the glue. They are the political family and perhaps know it well that after Rahul and Priyanka, no other Gandhi family member would be able to lead the party in near future. There is no ban on them but they will have to work really hard in the competitive environment.
In the end, the hypocrisy of Indians, who worship dynasties everywhere but are condemning one political family, is all too evident. The dynasty Gods, the dynast Rajas are the role model of SanghParivar but no one speaks against them. There are dynastiesin business, in cinema, in bureaucracy, in judiciary but we do not speak about them. ‘Vansh’ is the thing for which Indians are ready to die. Politicians are anointing their children and BJP has not done away with it either, except at the top.
Rahul must focus on cleaning the party and lead the movement against hatred and division but before he starts, he must read Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar, Gandhi, Vivekanand and Nehru.This will help him understand India well. He must learn to critique his own party. His grandmother might be his role model but she also destroyed democratic institutions. His father, too, bypassed the norms of democracy. Rahul would do well to admit the faults of the Congress party and learn from them to re-build the party. He can do that by his suggestions and involvement in the party, for which he need not to be the president or the leader in Parliament, but he must act fast as time is running out.The old guard, waiting for Modi to make mistakes, would serve no purpose as Congress needs to provide a real alternative.