The Congress party today has become a front for the Left. Not only at the Centre but also in the states.
In states like Tripura and West Bengal, the Congress has always been a front for the Communist Party. The reason Mamata Banerjee left West Bengal Congress after being there for 15 years was that the organisation was simply not interested in dislodging the Communist Party. Over the years, I have seen the same thing happen in Tripura as well.
History is testimony to the fact that former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao dismissed his own Congress government in Tripura and imposed President’s Rule in 1993. We had to fight the election without a Congress sitting chief minister in the office.
Love for the Left
Over the years, the Congress has tilted even more towards the Left. This became pronounced after the creation of the National Advisory Council, where Congress president Sonia Gandhi brought a host of social activists not linked to the ground. But what did they do when the Anna Hazare-led movement went against the Congress? They supported the movement. Eventually, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power.
The Congress’ fascination with the Left is because it thinks it needs to occupy the position of pursuing social change and justice. We all understand that the Congress party needs to have this social outlook, and we agree with the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru’s policy. But the world is changing and so is India. The country is grateful to former prime minister Manmohan Singh for heralding economic reforms that changed India after 1991. At that time, the Congress was the torch-bearer of this important change.
Throughout history, though, the Congress party’s biggest opponents were the Communists. They opposed Nehru, Indira Gandhi, P.V Narasimha Rao, and Manmohan Singh Today, the same Communists are seen as the Congress’ best friends. It doesn’t add up. It is extremely sad.
Centre is the place
The truth is that the BJP is getting stronger because the Congress has moved more towards the Left. Both the Left and the Right are intolerant.
I believe the Congress party should take a centrist position and continue with social welfare schemes while taking the economy along. Today, the Congress is seen as anti-industry, anti-growth and that’s because it has allowed the Communists to infiltrate into the party. India needs a balanced and not an extreme point of view.
Look at the way the Congress party has eulogised Kanhaiya Kumar, who is now a member of the Communist Party of India. And think about how many times he has spoken well of the Congress leaders. Zero. It’s not a two-way street. The Congress retweets his views, but he doesn’t reciprocate by doing the same for Congress leaders.
No regional leaders
Another problem is that the Congress does not encourage regional leadership. It is a national party, but even in its prime, there were strong regional leaders like Y.B Chavan, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, P.A. Sangma and others. They were national leaders with a strong regional outlook. Today, the Congress has a bunch of leaders who represent some of the states that it is ruling but these leaders are all Delhi-based. It doesn’t nurture regional leaders who can make a mark for themselves. How can any party be a national party without a strong regional footprint?
In the 2018 assembly election in Tripura, the Congress did not even put up a fight because it wanted to enhance the CPI(M)’s chances. It did not resist the BJP and simply surrendered to the Communist Party, whose members have been accused of killing several Congress workers in Tripura over the years. The Congress adopted a similar stance in the 2020 Delhi election by surrendering to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Why has the AAP risen in Delhi? It’s because the Congress has decided to surrender.
When the leadership takes a conscious decision of undermining its own party, what do you go and tell your workers? People won’t believe a party that makes deals in Delhi and sells out the state leadership. At least the BJP is clear on what it wants.
Delhi isn’t India
The Congress leadership needs to understand that New Delhi is not India and recognise the huge generational change that has taken place in the country. If we don’t accommodate the youth, we don’t accommodate the aspirational viewpoints and we go back to what Cuba or Venezuela did. These arguments sound fine in Khan Market and in college campuses but the reality of India is very different.
I think Jyotiraditya Scindia should have waited and created his own party before going to the BJP. But let’s be honest, he was pushed out of the Congress party. As far as I know, he didn’t want to leave but was feeling snubbed every day. It happened to me as well but I didn’t go to the BJP because I believe that the BJP is not the solution. I come from the Northeast. The people there don’t want the BJP but they don’t trust the Congress party either.
I wish Scindia had started his own party but he has his own compulsions.
Way out for Congress
Even if the Congress held internal elections, nothing will change. The average age of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) leaders is 77 years. But before anything else, this interim president business has to end. Second, the Congress needs to decentralise itself and focus away from Delhi.
We have learnt from history that extreme positions have only divided societies. Today, India needs a system that accommodates every point of view and does not impose a singular view. Rahul Gandhi has often accused the BJP of doing the latter, but the Congress must introspect and find out if the party is also not imposing a singular outlook.
India became a modern nation on the basis of certain assurances by our founders – that our culture, language and society are protected by the people in power. The Congress says the right things but it has curtailed dissension, debate and contrary point of view within its organisation. If it runs the party on the basis of a singular point of view, how can it convince people that it will run India any differently. This intolerance, I believe, has come because of the Congress’ growing proximity with the Left, which is as inflexible as the extreme Right.
The author is head of the royal house of Tripura, and former Congress president in the state. Views are personal.