THE internal story now unfolding in the Congress party resembles something like pot calling kettle black. Party President Mr. Rahul Gandhi has heaped severe criticism on three stalwarts -- Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Kamal Nath, Rajasthan Chief Minister Mr. Ashok Gehlot, and veteran leader and former Union Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram -- that they worked only to have their sons elected but did not care to bolster the party’s campaign for the recent Lok Sabha elections.
This is, no doubt, a stinging allegation that may hurt the three leaders, and their response to the chief’s criticism may damage the Congress organisation internally. The internal reaction to this criticism is one of surprise -- that Mr. Rahul Gandhi who is enjoying his position through dynastic succession is criticising his senior colleagues for a similar conduct, if at all there is a substance in the charge. Obviously, the Congress party seems set for a grim internal battle. For, Mr. Gandhi’s elder sister -- Mrs. Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, newly appointed General Secretary of the party -- has added fuel to the fire by stating that her brother fought a lonely electoral battle while most other leaders sat idle. Mrs. Gandhi-Vadra has urged her brother not to quit his position as that may mean falling into the BJP’s trap.
All these details put together present a grim picture of how the Congress organisation is getting pulled into different directions by its own leaders following the crushing defeat the party faced in the second consecutive election to the Lok Sabha. So badly mauled is the mental make up of the party that the leaders are not willing rejoice an increased tally of its Members of Parliament this time (from 44 in the last Lok Sabha to 52 now). Given the culture of sycophancy and one-upmanship that the Congress party has bred over time, such kind of a blame game was actually expected. The party may see many resignations of persons in high positions, in the next some days.
And even as all that would happen, there would be a call to stand by Mr. Rahul Gandhi in the bad days that have befallen the Congress party. Mrs. Gandhi-Vadra’s appeal to her brother to stay put gives enough of an indication of how things would get shaped in the next some time. The details notwithstanding, the overall atmosphere in the party is quite confused and no one seems to know what to do and how. This is the result of years of almost-deliberate neglect of the party’s history and a refusal to learn the right lessons from it. In the past five years, the party did see many moments when some or the other leader or veteran reminded all to learn right lessons from its long history.
Yet each time such a wise counsel came up on internal forums, there was a stony silence greeting it. Obviously, the party did not want to learn from its own past. The worst part was that no one was willing even to think that the Gandhi family could ever do anything wrong. So, a lot of mis-steps by Mr. Rahul Gandhi went unchecked and the party kept sliding down the scale all the time. To outsiders, this subservience to the Gandhi family on the part of most seniors and veterans of many a battle is very surprising. There is no other party in the country harbouring such a culture. Quite many regional parties have been founded and led by one leader -- and his or her family. Yet, even in those outfits, occasional stiff opposition to the supremo, and we read stories of how one person or group left the organisation in protest of the boss’s brazenness. In Congress party, there is no such tradition, and all fall prey to the pressure of subservience to the Gandhi family. Against this backdrop, it would be only a miracle if the party can tide over the current crisis of mutual confidence.