Saving Congress Party

AFTER the recent defeats in five state elections, Congress is facing an existential crisis and is, for once, looking for ways to resurrect itself. And it is to this end that the party was in talks with election strategist Prashant Kishor to chart a path for a return to the national centre stage. The party held several meetings with Kishor and wanted him to join in a senior capacity. But Kishor declined the offer at the last minute. But the poll strategist has called for transformational changes within the party and resolution of leadership issues if it wanted to bounce back as a credible challenger to the BJP Would Kishor be able to do anything about it while staying outside the party As of now, it would be anybody’s guess.  But the truth is that Congress is now in dire straits. The party despite its claim to being India’s pre-eminent secular party has never posed an ideological challenge to prime minister Narendra Modi. Neither in Gujarat where the party has successively failed to wrest the  state from the BJP nor in the rest of the country. The BJP has now acquired a true national profile and Congress is shrinking by the day.

This is such a sorry state of affairs for a party which ruled India for over fifty years after independence. It is now finding it difficult to even win state elections. For example, it was not even in the distant reckoning in the recent all-important election in Uttar Pradesh.  And its chances look slim in the upcoming state polls this year. This is why a breakaway group led by Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma and calling itself G-23 is demanding 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 of 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, the PM Modi’s appeal has only grown stronger. He looks favourite to win many more Assembly polls, more so, the upcoming election in several states unless Congress and wider opposition gets its act right. That is, if no credible opposition emerges from the shadows in the near future, a prospect that looks bleak. In the words of Kishor,  Mamata Banerjee retained West Bengal because she got into the pit and fought, unlike Congress which displays a singular lack of willingness to fight. Would Congress be able to do it, only time will tell.

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