Congress After Azad

THE resignation of Ghulam Nabi Azad, a veteran Congress leader and once a Gandhi loyalist has come as yet another major setback to the Congress party. In a scalding letter, Azad has raised questions about the ability of the former Congress president Rahul Gandhi to win polls and squarely blamed him for the party’s debacle in successive elections. He blamed Gandhi for the current plight of the Congress, saying the latter’s “childish behaviour” more than anything else, contributed significantly to the defeat of the UPA in 2014. For the last two years, Azad was one of the leading lights of a rebel faction called G23, which sought reforms in Congress to no avail. Significantly, Azad’s resignation came days after another Congress veteran Anand Sharma resigned from a key party position offered to him in the poll-bound Himachal Pradesh, citing ”exclusions and insults.”

Azad’s resignation should certainly be a moment of deep reflection for Congress. The party that ruled India for over fifty years after independence is now finding it difficult to even win state elections. For example, it is not even in the distant reckoning in the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. This is why G23 led by Azad and Sharma was 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. The G23’s rebellion marked a break from the passivity of the seven years after the 2014 defeat with the party apparently resigning to its current lot. But at the same time, Congress has found it difficult 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 boost 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, PM Modi’s appeal has only grown stronger. He looks favourite to win the upcoming Assembly polls, including even the 2024 national polls unless the 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. Congress, for one, is no longer the party that has either the will or the means to take on the BJP juggernaut.

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