Gandhis Must Quit Gracefully


Difficult for them to arrest winning streak of Modi
(Anita Saluja)
It’s a New India, since 2014, where the country is ruled by a person, who has enamoured and mesmerized the people to such an extent that come what may, they have decided to stay by him! Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come to power, no matter whether or not Achche Din have come, the people have shown their solidarity with him. No matter if unemployment is on the rise, inflation is on the upward trend, people faced hardships due to Covid mismanagement and communal politics took its toll, yet people are committed to Prime Minister Modi.

Similarly, it can be stated about the Congress, though in an opposite way! Priyanka Gandhi tried her best, by attending as many as 200 rallies in the Hindi- Heartland State of Uttar Pradesh, but what she secured for her party was mere 2 seats. The party, which won by 6.22 percent vote share and secured 7 seats in the UP Assembly elections in 2017, was reduced to 2.33 percent vote share and 2 seats in 2022!

Gandhi bastions wiped out
The Gandhi bastions of RaeBareli and Amethi were wiped out completely, as was the case with other 397 seats, which the party contested. It’s not as if she didn’t try hard. In fact, from her Ladki Hun, Lad Sakti Hun campaign, others like the BJP and SP took a cue and announced several welfare & promotional schemes for women. The ladies, in fact, voted en masse for the BJP, impressed by the freebies announced by Prime Minister Modi. However, in the highly polarized polls, where AIMIM had also fielded candidates in all the constituencies, people opted to vote either for BJP, or the Samajwadi Party. The latter failed to secure the Jats and non-Yadavs votes, as expected, after the alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
Harish Rawat too lost in Uttarakhand
One expected that in Uttarakhand, where Governments change after very term, the Congress would get the chance this time, but here, too, due to internal wranglings within the party, even the Chief Ministerial Candidate Harish Rawat couldn’t save his own seat. Similar was the case in Goa and Manipur, where the Congress failed to garner votes for itself, paving the way, once again, for the BJP to retain their Governments. In Punjab, all the renowned faces, including State Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Punjab PCC Chief Navjot Singh Siddhu, were trounced by their rivals.

Congress siblings mishandling
The supporters of Gandhi dynasty can argue that it was the AAP wave in Punjab that rooted out the Congress, but the fact remains that due to the mishandling by the Congress siblings, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress was routed in the State, where it had the maximum chance of winning. There was no need for the removal of Amrinder Singh, prior to the Assembly elections. Why was Harish Rawat sent as AICC Incharge to Punjab, when his presence was required more in his home State of Uttarakhand?
There are many questions, which need to be asked to the Gandhis, but who will bell the cat? In the CWC meeting, as usual, the supporters outnumbered the dissenters and as is the age-old practice, everyone agreed for the continuation of the status-quo. However, Chintan Shivir will be organized after the Budget Session Parliament, to chalk out the strategy for the future.

Retaining the Gandhis subdue dissenters
Ever since the debacle of the Congress, right from 2014, various committees have been formed to analyse the poll results, but the party high command has failed to implement those recommendations. In the Chintan Shivir, again, the chorus in support of retaining the Gandhis would subdue the voice of the handful of dissenters.
The loyalists vouch for split in the party, if the Gandhis are shown the door. With the remaining two States of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, which are still in their hold, they hope to make a comeback. But, is it so easy, after the success of the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab? Arvind Kejriwal will choose those very States to strengthen his organization, where the Congress is in power, an easier task than wresting power from the BJP, in their strongholds.
Enough is enough for dissenters
The Dissenters will not sit quietly, as for them “enough is enough.” Seniors like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, Manish Tewari, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, alongwith Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor, feel that urgent surgery is required to revive the Congress. At the Chintan Shivir, or much before, they are likely to raise the demand for the convening of the AICC Session, where the demand for the ouster of the Gandhis would gain momentum. For all of them, nothing is more important than the party. They are ready to make any sacrifice to prevent the Congress from collapsing or fading away. In the last eight years, the Congress has won only 5 elections and lost around 40.

Difficult to arrest winning streak of Modi
The Gandhis, who had offered to resign at the CWC meeting but agreed to stay on, as per the wishes of the majority of the leaders, should comprehend that the way ahead is full of hurdles. It is very difficult to arrest, or reverse, the winning streak of Modi, given the polarization in the country. Moreover, with AAP ready to replace it, with an impressive record of development in Delhi, chances for the revival of the Congress looks bleak.
It’s better to quit gracefully, than waiting to be ousted by your own partymen. The next round of elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh would again be tough for the Congress. The AAP has already declared that it would contest all the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, slated for November. Similarly, in Gujarat, the home-turf of Modi & Amit Shah, it would be impossible for the Congress to wrest the State Government from the BJP.
Chattisgarh and Rajasthan ridden with factionalism
The two Congress States, of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, are ridden with factionalism. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is often confronted with T S Singh Deo, who feels that it is his turn to govern the State, after the completion of the two-and-a-half-year term of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, as promised by the Congress High Command. In Rajasthan, similarly, the fight between State Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot is well-known. The Gandhis, who messed up in Punjab due to the differences in the State-Unit, would find it difficult to handle these two States. With the Gandhis already on a sticky wicket, it will be rather nightmarish for them to quell the dissidence.

Instead of being at the receiving-end from their own party leaders and an object of ridicule from their rivals, bowing to the other Opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee or Akhilesh Yadav, it will be far better, if the Gandhis, as stated in the CWC meeting, choose to “sacrifice” and “step away” for the larger cause and more so, for their own peaceful & bright future. They have nothing to achieve, nothing to gain, if they continue under the present Modi dispensation, where the Modi Magic is getting stronger with every passing day, continuing to charm and attract the people towards him.
(The writer is Delhi-based senior journalist and political commentator. Views are personal.)

Anita Saluja


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