With senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s sudden resignation, the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh has been plunged into a crisis. Its fate is now uncertain. However, the development is not only about the crisis of the government, but that of the Congress party as well. Scindia was one of the charismatic Congress leaders and had been instrumental in helping Congress win Madhya Pradesh last year against a formidable BJP challenge. But the same leader is now joining the BJP along with possibly his supporters. This leaves Congress without an important leader in Madhya Pradesh. But more than that it exposes existing state of Congress party. It shows how even six years after the BJP’s rule over the country, Congress is struggling to get its act right. It has not only failed to come up with an ideological response to the BJP, but at the organizational level too, the party is in a drift. And this has made many of its important leaders like Scindia hopeless about their future.
Scindia’s resignation, therefore, should be a wake up call for Congress. It can’t afford more leaders like him to leave the party. Congress, if it has to survive as a viable pan-India party has to step up and present itself as a credible alternative to the BJP, something it hasn’t been able to do so far. And there are reasons for it. In its politics, the party has acted more as a softer version of the BJP than its political rival with a narrative and an agenda of its own.
As for the ideological contestation, if anything that election after election over the past five years has brought to light, it is the fast blurring difference between the BJP and the Congress in their ideological orientation. What has been singularly absent from the discourse is a defense of secularism which was expected from the Congress as the party claiming to champion inclusiveness. But the party instead has chosen to ply soft Hindutva.
So, even if the Congress has somehow won the polls here and there it hasn’t been a victory for a plural vision of India. It has been a triumph of its promise of welfare measures and its focus on jobs and amelioration of rural poverty. The secularism that the Congress is iterating continues to be steeped in electoral calculations. And this is why it is not convincing unlike Modi.
Scindia’s exit and potentially the loss of one more state government to the BJP should therefore be a cause for rethink in Congress high command. Scindia was not entirely secular in his outlook but for Congress to offer a bracing new vision of India and for its own survival, it has to go back to its founding values.
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