Congress-mukt India?

CRUSHING defeat in the five state elections has left Congress in dire straits. The national party’s electoral footprint is now shrinking by the day. Though after the electoral rout, the party took some time off to discuss the ways to revive the party, no significant changes have taken place. Only the five party presidents of the states where Congress lost have been asked to resign which they have done, including the maverick Navjot Singh Sidhu, the president of the party in Punjab.

On the other hand, the dissident G-23 group held their own meeting at the residence of the senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.  And for the first time, they issued a statement signed by 18 leaders which called on the Congress party “to adopt the model of collective and inclusive leadership and decision-making at all levels.” This time there were three new entrants —  Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s wife Preneet Kaur, and Gujarat leader Shankarsinh Vaghela, who quit the Congress in 2017 and now wants to return to the paryt. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has also reportedly reached out to the dissident group and a meeting between Sonia and some of the leaders is on the cards.

Debacle in five state elections should certainly be a moment of deep reflection for Congress. The party which ruled India for over fifty years after independence is now finding it difficult to even win state elections. For example, it was not even in the distant reckoning in the just-concluded all-important election in Uttar Pradesh which the BJP won again. Punjab where it stood some chance was won by the AAP by a landslide majority. This is why a breakaway group led by Azad and Anand Sharma  and calling itself G-23 has been calling for serious reforms in the party. But this has split the Congress down the middle with Gandhi family supporters and opponents at loggerheads with each other. However, G23’s rebellion marks a break from the passivity of the last eight years with the party apparently seeming to have resigned to its current lot. But it won’t also be easy to elect a non-Gandhi president. And the party has its own reasons for this: a Gandhi not being at the helm will run the risk of breaking the party up. Also, in the present circumstances, Congress doesn't boast many a mass leader -albeit, there are many senior politicians who can be worthy successors to Gandhi. Gandhi’s term at the helm has shown that he is not just up to the task.

It is now clear that the wave of Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains alive and kicking. After a few reverses here and there over the last seven years, Modi's appeal has only grown stronger. He looks favourite to win many more Assembly polls, and now also the general elections in 2024 unless Congress and wider opposition get their act right. That is, if no credible opposition emerges from the shadows in the near future, a prospect that looks bleak.

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