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Congress has split into three parties, and not one of them is good at politics

The labourers’ crisis was a lifeline for the Congress, but it didn’t know how to take it.

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Let’s cut to February 2020. The Narendra Modi establishment was not willing to relent on the “chronological” CAA, NPR and NRC, which together threatened to make lakhs of Indian Muslims stateless.

The establishment had already tasted success with Kashmir and Ram Mandir, following its stupendous victory in the Lok Sabha elections in the summer of 2019.

BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s words, according to many, had already sparked a riot in Delhi, which left over 50 people dead. This was the establishment’s response to the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. It wasn’t even willing to engage with them.

Opposition parties including the main one, the Congress, were at a loss of words because the national political conversation centred around Hindu-Muslim issues, which they consider their weakest pitch. Despite the economy being in the doldrums, they were unable to shift the conversation to bread-and-butter issues.

As Narendra Modi bandied US President Donald Trump around Ahmedabad like a trophy endorsement, no one could say if the BJP was done with its Hindutva agenda. Were uniform civil code and a population control law on the cards?

The coronavirus pandemic came as a blow to the Hindutva agenda, even as Hindutva forces used the Tablighi Jamaat incident to give the pandemic a communal colour. But that lasted two weeks, at the most. The wretched virus is a long-term problem that can’t be solved by shifting attention or flexing muscle with election victories, engineered riots and stadium rallies. Even when the virus gets a vaccine.

In other words, this was a lifeline destiny was offering to the Congress, as well as other opposition parties. It is pointless to blame other opposition parties because not one of them is seeking a national role for themselves. Even Arvind Kejriwal formally laid down arms.

For the battered Congress, however, this was a god-sent opportunity to re-assert its pro-poor image of UPA-1 vintage. If Modi pre-empted any such efforts on the issue of the disease itself, there was the labourers’ crisis that even Amitabh Kant of Niti Aayog admits the government fared poorly on.

Given that the Modi government did not even shed crocodile tears for the distressed and stranded labourers, this was an easy opportunity for the Congress to exploit. It has failed to do so. Its response has come across as ad hoc, unplanned, unsure, confused, episodical and too little, too late. There are at least three reasons for this failure.

Also read: There’s more to Rahul’s return. Sonia Gandhi now has a sunset clause for Congress veterans

1. An unofficial split, or two

There are three Congresses within the Congress these days. There’s Congress (S), Congress (R) and Congress (P). One doesn’t seem to know what the other is doing.

Sonia Gandhi announces the party will pay for the train tickets of the labourers, and Rahul Gandhi doesn’t even tweet about it, leave alone do a Zoom conference. Ideally, he should have been at a railway station in Delhi, leading the charge from the front.

Rahul Gandhi and his people feel so marginalised in the party that they perhaps privately rue that most top leaders don’t even retweet him. And Priyanka Gandhi does her own thing in Uttar Pradesh, because her powerful aide Sandeep Singh wants to show he has better ideas than D.K. Shivakumar and Ahmed Patel.

The result is that the three camps often look like they’re trying to overshadow each other’s attempt to earn political capital.

In the absence of a real split, the party comes across as not knowing what it is doing and in which direction it is going.

Also read: Covid lockdown has ended only opposition politics in India. BJP’s shop is very much open

2. Inability to understand political campaigning

The only motivation Congress leaders have is to not let other Congress leaders succeed. Perhaps, such competition could be healthy, as it is at least motivating them to do something.

But none of the three camps seems to be succeeding because none of them understands what a “campaign” is or even that making any point in public needs a campaign.

From Mahatma Gandhi to Narendra Modi, successful politicians across ideological divides understand the need for a campaign to drill any point into the minds of the masses. A campaign is a planned series of events making a coherent point or two; it helps people appreciate the point being made thanks to the power of repetition; it has a pre-designated name, keywords and hashtags; and it lasts minimum two weeks.

Gandhi could have just gone to the nearest salt coast and made salt. Instead, he drew a long route to Dandi, planning in great detail a march that would drive his message of civil disobedience to the masses. So, it wasn’t just Narendra Modi who made politics look like event management. Smart politics has always been like that because it is essentially an act of mass communication.

The Congress party that claimed to be legatee of Gandhi (or does it?) doesn’t seem to understand this. Sonia Gandhi (meaning, Ahmed Patel) announces that the Congress will pay for the train tickets of all migrant labourers. Great idea. The Modi government, rattled, issues a fake spin of the Centre paying 85 per cent of the cost and states the rest 15 per cent.

It came across as a one-day event by the Congress, rather a press-release event. Had the same been done like a campaign, everyone would have known how many tickets the Congress bought; what Congress state governments did, and so on.

Similarly, Rahul Gandhi did Zoom chats with two economists — Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee — and then forgot all about them. What did they lead to? What was the outcome? What was the follow-up? It took him weeks to go meet a few migrant labourers, again a one-off event put out as a “documentary” no one saw.

Similarly, Priyanka Gandhi made a one-off claim the Congress had buses to provide and Yogi Adityanath called out the bluff by saying okay, give them right away. Again and again, we see the lack of a campaign approach that would pre-empt such fiascos.

Also read: How her Leftist advisors left Priyanka, and Congress, red faced in UP over buses for migrants

3. The air-conditioned ivory towers 

The ban on political activity during the pandemic/lockdown has come as a great boon to the lazy Lutyens’ leaders of the Congress party. They don’t even have to step out anymore, not even between 7 am and 7 pm. No political protest or rally is allowed.

As stranded labourers struggle to survive, Rahul Gandhi posts on Instagram a photo of himself with the caption, “A quiet evening in the office”. It must take a lot of effort to be this stupid.

It takes Rahul Gandhi more than 50 days to meet migrant labourers. And Priyanka Gandhi outsources her job to her “personal secretary” who has a Communist background. Does anyone even know who Narendra Modi’s personal secretary is? Amit Shah’s? No, because these leaders know the basics of politics, such as a leader taking the lead.

All three parties, the Congress (S), the Congress (R) and the Congress (P ) come across as being run not by their leaders, but by aides who haven’t won a single direct election.

Rahul Gandhi should have been walking with migrants from Delhi to Amethi. When would all that gymming be of any use? And Priyanka Gandhi should herself have gone to the UP border in Delhi or Rajasthan to make an impassioned speech about Yogi Adityanath not letting buses be used for labourers. She should have courted arrest. Instead, the party’s Uttar Pradesh chief is arrested and party leaders are, as usual, tweeting their condemnation.

Just imagine the BJP’s reaction if Ashok Gehlot was to put the BJP’s Rajasthan chief in jail.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. Shivam Vij nails it perfectly on what malaise alis the Congress…the Legatees of the Congress Rahul and Priyanka are so ingrained from birth with a sense of entitlement to rule they do not deem it necessary to step out of their ivory tower save and except for the occasional photo ops..RaGa is becoming a national joke with his frequent foot in the mouth disease and Priyanka for all her assertions that she is the grand daughter of the redoubtable Indira Gandhi is becoming more irrelevant in Uttar Pradesh no match for the rough hewn Yogi… the recent revelations about Chinese Donations to the coffers of the Rajiv Gandhi foundation only serve to underline the fact that they can sell themselves to the highest donor Nattional Security be dammed

  2. This all started by congress ,,,go back in history ,,for vote politics they started minority appeasement ,,when u play with fire ,,u will get burnt as majority who are antagonised by CONgress policies will shift loyalty to an alternative thought ,,BJP was forced to adopt this narrative and won ,,had CONgress not been so corrupt,, ineffective , and puppet PM ,,look at amethi ,,zero development,,so I feel CONgress has lost faith of the people and only by being fair nd transparent neutral approach to all communities and shun appeasement,, but I guess it is beyond them

  3. the hindu Muslim thing is what is making 1 party grow from strength to strength and the other be reduced to one of losers.Today it’s not economy or jobs ,but only who is going to do the bidding for that vote.Had this guy walked with migrants to their villages he would have ended up with blisters and Corona to boot .These migrants would have got back in any case and got excited at the prospect of construction of Ram temple and voted.Congress or any other party are irrelevant given the way voter thinks.Its no point dissecting a party when in reality no hope exist for it.Not that Raga inspires any confidence.

  4. Sad but true . But the media is busy roasting Congress instead of asking questions to ruling dispensation and about 1000 buses nobody cared for 564 buses which were in good condition .it is much better than announcing 20 lakh crore with less than 2 lakh crore take away. The article should be written how public money is squandered for publicity stunds. Further how much could a political party do when they are being mocked for good initiatives which should be done by ruling party and still none dare to question anybody accountable
    Indian media has written more articles about malfunction of congress than problems with ruling dispensation and are very verbal supporters of BJP and hence elections turned lamp post elections and BJP delayed lock down till MP fiasco. Congress has atleast shown sympathy to common man which BJP had 6 years back and lost in mid way
    If 63000 cr used for writing off corporate debt was given out to needy common man as done by UPA 1 by writing off farm loan debts it would be much better

  5. Sir
    As Indian citizen your article is baseless and disgraceful I think this is the last time IAM reading print
    Bakwas likha he jisne bhi likha wo kudh AC rahkar manghdak khani likhraha he.

  6. India must perhaps be the only democracy where right wingers and liberals both attack the opposition party for real and imagined faults while Pradhan Sevak continues to run the economy to the ground. If RG says “chowkidar chor hai” he is lampooned, if he warns the govt full one month in advance to prepare for coronavirus he is ridiculed, if he suggests implementing “Nyay” to ensure migrant workers don’t wander all over the country and stay put he is dismissed, if he meets few poor people to know how they are coping he is asked to carry their suitcases. In short, nothing he does is ever good enough – for right wingers (understandably) and liberals alike. In such a scenario when the whole country is against him, he has still managed to keep his sanity – that itself is commendable. Look at his contemporaries – Kejriwal has not opened his mouth since May 2019, where is Akhilesh? and Mayawati has become BJP spokesperson. Even Shivam Vij feels the pressure – after every 2 articles criticising Modi, he has to write one against RG. Atleast that way he gets to bask in the praise of the right wingers after being called all sorts of vile names by these same people for his anti-Modi stuff.
    If Modi has any consistent opposition in the country, it is RG – no one else even has the guts to make an attempt.

  7. Print, is nothing but BJP’s mouth piece, when 20 lacs package, it went ga.. ga, Good luck. Have a spine & report live the facts & not any imagination.

    • Mr.shekar gupta
      damned if you do and damned if you don.t.
      but keep going. you are doing an excellent job.

  8. Best para was this and wonderfully ended too..HAHAHAHA” As stranded labourers struggle to survive, Rahul Gandhi posts on Instagram a photo of himself with the caption, “A quiet evening in the office”. It must take a lot of effort to be this stupid.”

  9. Shivam bij you are so off of the reality that all your strategy are nothing but illogical rhetoric.

  10. Correctly said. The INC doesn’t want to take the pain of leaving their a/c residences/offices to be on the ground with the masses. Tweets/FB/WA is their ineffective work-around.

  11. Congress or any party including BJP has produced only mazdoors and not professional labourers just for votes who have become dependent upon alms of poorly educated leaders whose interests are to earn money 5 to 10 times spent on giving drinks and freebies to these poor people during elections. Fault is on both sides poor people as well as netas they choose for petty things and then cry in troubles without thinking that they sold them salves for profit of netas .Actually Congress has ruled more times and BJP is for last 7 years let’s see.But we will have to stop political and babu and baba corruption to make progress. We all are responsible for this mess and will have to correct our salves and our families to come out of this mess don’t except any govt as we are such a large population that unless we take disciplined steps we will be ruined politicians will survive as they have already bought you.Better save yourself and your family

  12. No one believe (except bjp followers) your words. Your personal opinion is not all. BJP fighting for rich & congress fights for poor. BJP ruling is like a Maharajah. Now people are thinking & realising, they are waiting for time.
    BJP is namely National party, it’s represents one religion, but congress is all.

  13. The article sounds like a exasperated plea to Congress. It’s beyond belief why is the media still thinking only Gandhis can save the nation (first of all does the nation need saving?). Although it had lot of stalwarts, Congress from Nehruvian times has become a one person party. How can a party with “leader for life” setup attract determined politicians who will fight for a cause or a someone with a vision. Look at BJP, Modi is it’s 3rd satrap. With the exception of Communists and AIADMK leadership has passed only to heirs. How on earthy the media supports such parties.

    Right or wrong BJP has a vision for India. Their pro-Hindu agenda backlash to misdeeds of precious governments and growing Islamic radicalization.

    always had been one person party, although it lot

  14. Shivam will have to crib for a few more years till 2024 and then he will switch over to Modi’s side! He would have by then discovered that there is absolutely no other alternative to Modi, despite him yelling out brilliant strategies and tactics on how to tackle Modi to Congress leaders week after week . Poor Shivam! But he provides a great source of entertainment every week and his columns are such a delight to read, once you switch off your brains!

  15. We need opposition not this raja- ranis with darbaris. Sri vij has 3 points and all are wrong. CAA etc are not anti indian muslims at all. Congress can not be synonym with mother-son-dsughter personal properties, it is a much bigger legacy. Countrymen have contributed more than Nehru & his khandan. Nehru ji sowed the seed for it’s demise by promoting Indira Gandhi by suppressing, all even Shasthra jee and Indira jee destroyed it’s fabric. Aftermath is simply skeletons ..
    Congress is not a legacy of Gandhi jee, he wishes it to be dissolved.
    3rd least said about the rubbish, the new leadership. They have made it a picnic spot.

  16. Congress is useless. They should have appointed Shri Shivam as the President with full powers. BJP would have come down to two seats as they did earlier. Even now he can be given a chance so that Mr. Modi can become a CM (common man) again.

  17. Even though am pro BJP the need for a competent and strong opposition is a good requirement in a just democracy. I appreciate the author about his 3 party concept and is really true , Congress is in shambles and they behave as though they have 3 different ideologies. When Rahul started the series with economists I really thought he has gained substance and that he would ask the right questions and that this would help with hi image in some way , all it did was bring the economists into spotlight, Rahul remains a pappu and so will S and P. Congress is destined for packup real soon but I hope another party stands up firmly against BJP to support and project an opposing view on issues

  18. “It might be in BJPs interest for them to be leaders but it not in the national interest. FOR HEAVENS SAKE MAN (Rahul and others) , GO GO GO..

    who do you think will be best to lead opposition party in next election?
    I think Sachin pilot , young and possibly smart.
    Problem is if Rahul comes to Hyderabad or Mumbai, roads, hundreds will come, but no opposition leader has such popularity.

  19. The Delhi riots were carefully planned and orchestrated by the Islamic and left forces. The truth is slowly coming out, one FIR and one arrest at a time. Your pathological lie reveals your malicious heart.

  20. To make congress live shivam vij should be made president and make it a single face

  21. Vij’s condition is no better than the dying Congress. His brain, heart and hands move in three different directions. Anybody who will play with the people would ultimately drown in gutter. That’s the rule of democracy.

    • Every politician is playing with people including Modi.
      I think his only ambition is to win next election, not economic growth or helping people.
      He is astute politician, failed leader and statesman. But great inspiration to indians, how to move from rages to rich and how not to rule ideal country

  22. “Shoe I am ” you STUPIDO . What buses my government was charging hapless students in Rajasthan to travel to UP. My government in Maharashtra was protecting Tabligis and leaving labourers in millions in lurch. Don’t bother we have enough money for PASTA and pizza with mozzarella cheese. MAMMAMIA.

  23. From the point of view of need for a strong national level political party in a democracy, congress needs to revamp the organisational structure including the top leaders (if necessary to be from outside the Gandhi family), central committee to comprise experienced people and enthusiastic youth leaders (who are capable to take on responsible roles whenever the situation demands), state level and district level organisations; attracting members from all walks of life. As pointed out by the author as well as commented by others, congress workers should have been on the ground (literally) holding the hands of the needy. Parallel political activities by way interaction or conversations with the economists in my view will have no positive impact on the policies of the Government. Instead, these discussions needs to happen at the committee level forums and a collective voice can be raised at the national level by the leaders so that people can see what opposite parties have in mind which can make a difference to the people.

  24. I thought Shivam Vij was a reasonable journalist. Instead of finding fault with weak opposition, he should have had the courage to castigate the ruling dispensation for the state of affairs.

    • I don’t know about him, this is ideal opportunity for Congress if they are craving to rule and help people because people are depressed and upset. This shows this people have no ambition and hunger.

  25. Congress didn’t do anything for the migrants, but what did the central government do?. After shutting down the railways for passenger trains the junta curfew was announced. Later the lockdown of 21 days was to happen within 4 hours of announcement. Later this was extended and now seems to be endless. The poor migrants were promised food etc in their place of residence but that also was another jhumla. Finally many were left penniless and homeless and decided to go back walking home. Even when thousands were walking there was no support from the government. Tired of hunger and police beating they finally reached to their villages only to be quarintined. Only if they would have been given time to go home by railway immediately after lockdown all this mess and miseries of the poor that we are seeing would not have taken place. Finally after 40 days the government started the trains with all fanfare but still the situation is not normal. Now that the migrants who were not infected earlier have become infected in the cities by living conditions this will be a dangerous spread of the virus in the villages until some proper treatment is found. Meanwhile the economy of the states will suffer until the migrants return to their places of work which can only happen when the lockdown is completely over.


  27. Harami Congress should have stood in railway stations and given money to the needy to buy tickets.
    Kamini Congress should have drove buses to ferry people walking on the highways.
    Kachra Congress should have stood in bus stands and given money to the needy to buy tickets.
    C’ya Congress should have set up kitchens all over the country to feed the needy for free.

    Nothing of this sort was done. The honorable Congress party didn’t want to part away with their hard earned corruption money. Death to congress and congressees.

  28. It looks that chamchas are very upset with the wretched Congress is going down. This is the journalism we are seeing nowadays.
    A journalist is opining less but politicizing more. What makes these people think Congress or other opposition parties good is beyond understanding.
    So many years Kashmir, triple talaq, frequent blasts around the country, corruption, Ram Mandir, nepotism etc problems were deliberately kept alive. We were told there are unsolvable.
    That time all these journalists, Editors like Gupta etc were happy. Now what happened?

  29. Very aptly brought out. In our national interest, existence of a credible opposition is of paramount importance. Whether that comes from Congress or elsewhere is not so significant.

    One suggestion for such Credible Opposition options – SHADOW CABINET. Recruit people of outstanding integrity and experience in diverse fields, who have spent most of their lives in their specialised domains. Like, a military veteran of repute to evolve and put out detailed analysis of defence matters and alternate narrative, to counter the ruling party stand. Similarly, an economist for finance, an agriculturist for agriculture, an industrialist for Commerce… And so on.

    This Shadow Cabinet must put out constructive Criticism of the govt policies on a weekly basis and thus establish it’s credibility and gain popular trust.

    Positive things must be applauded, negative things must be highlighted with better, workable options. Better to be a think tank type collaborator opposition, than to oppose just because it’s called opposition….

  30. For a change, a well written and I dare say, witty article. With the mother and children in charge and Shri P Chidambaram, the “Fragile Five FM”, as the Twitter in Chief, Shri Narendra Modi has nothing to worry from this motley crew.

  31. Not the Congress as a party, but the split is in #TheFamily. By failing to install the duffer Rahul in the national politics, the Rajmata is now trying to force the Corruption Queen, Mrs Vadra, as the heir apparent of Gandhi (Indira, not MK) on the nation. This has resulted in a competition between the brother and sister for the inheritance of the scared name of Gandhi. But Sonia forgets that in the modern era of information technology, it is difficult, in spite of hiring agents like you to malign Modi.

  32. Sonu Sood , a actor , helped many migrant workers with food and transportation arrangements . This should have been essentially the work of social workers associated with various political parties . Politics has been reduced to strategies and campaigns and cynical yatras all designed to attract attention to non existent empathy for the aggrieved .Politicians can do and should do better , no strategy is needed , only human empathy .

  33. I don’t think you are juding it right thier a radical shift in thinking of people towards Congress built over past 6 years by media and other channels of communication. I am not saying at all that they are not to be blamed for their own failures but suggesting that they don’t know politics it’s bit harsh. Because political parties are built on campaign and campaigns are run on channel but channels refuses to do so and middle class is the active participant in any such event remember India Against Corruption it’s the same middle class which turned against Congress untill Middle Class turns back at BJP Congress situation won’t change despite their uncountable efforts. Politics space changes very quickly.

    • “It might be in BJPs interest for them to be leaders but it not in the national interest. FOR HEAVENS SAKE MAN (Rahul and others) , GO GO GO..

      who do you think will be best to lead opposition party in next election?
      I think Sachin pilot , young and possibly smart.
      Problem is if Rahul comes to Hyderabad or Mumbai, roads, hundreds will come, but no opposition leader has such popularity.

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