Friday, 25 November, 2022
HomePoliticsRahul Gandhi’s resignation can kill Congress, make India a one-party country

Rahul Gandhi’s resignation can kill Congress, make India a one-party country

The death of the Congress would remove any national opposition to Modi. Regional identities would become ever more politically salient.

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In most democracies, a politician who has just led his or her party to a crushing defeat steps aside. In the world’s largest democracy, however, parties are often structured around individuals or families. If they go, so does the party.

That’s one reason why it is so surprising that Rahul Gandhi quit as president of the Indian National Congress party after it was humiliated, for the second time in as many nationwide elections, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Gandhi’s mother, father, grandmother, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather were all Congress presidents. For almost half a century, the Congress has had few power centers outside the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The party’s institutional pillars have given way to centralized command and control; loyalty has replaced ideology. While this isn’t unusual for Indian parties, it usually leads to just one outcome. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the death of a powerful chief minister a few years ago has led to her party apparently withering away, even though it had a much stronger presence on the ground than the Congress has in most of India.

Would the Congress — a party more than a century old, which led India’s struggle for freedom — die just because a single family stepped away from power? It might. When for a brief while in the 1990s there was no Gandhi at the center of power, the party almost dissolved amid infighting and dissension.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi needs to leave mass politics, not party presidentship


The Nehru-Gandhis have served an important purpose: As long as they ran the party, nobody else fought to do so. Loyalty to the Gandhis took the place of ideological commitment. This weakened the party’s electoral arguments in favor of its hazy “idea of India.” At the same time, a party with no explicit commitment to ideology other than an undefined claim to leftist sentiment and centrist policy was also a broad tent that could include second-rung leaders who strongly disagreed on much else. Almost everyone in the Congress itself understands this, which is why they are so shell-shocked at Gandhi’s exit and so unwilling to let him leave.

Gandhi said that he had to take personal responsibility for the defeat and that the party needed to “radically transform” itself. It would be truer to say that he has now left the party with no option but to radically transform itself.

Gandhi’s decision doesn’t change the facts: He wasn’t the problem. The Congress ran a campaign in the general election that few of India’s remaining liberals could fault on the issues; its manifesto and program was well-considered and its energy commendable. It still lost by an enormous margin.

The problem is that the Congress’ ideology, such as it is, no longer has much traction with Indian voters. India is a young and impatient country. Many of the hallmarks of global populist authoritarianism are visible here, often in more virulent forms. As in Turkey, there is a widespread belief that India is a great civilization that is not being given its due. As in Russia, there is a suspicionthat NGOs and liberals are instruments of external meddling. As in the U.S., fake news and online echo chambers have enhanced tribalism and division. As in Brazil, many voters are convinced that the center-left establishment’s links to corruption are indissoluble.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi made 3 big mistakes in politics and didn’t learn much from them


Most importantly, the BJP appears to have won its decades-long battle to create a large group of voters that view themselves through the prism of their religious identity. In a country with an overwhelming Hindu majority, that makes the party very hard to beat.

For better or worse, Gandhi’s Congress is the only national alternative to the BJP. Many liberals have long been loudly hoping that it will die, claiming that another and better political force will emerge to take its place. That supposition is fatally flawed, however: It assumes that a national two-party system is inevitable and that another dominant contender will somehow fill the opposition space.

In actual fact, the most vibrant and effective opposition to the BJP is being organized at the state level, around more local identities. It’s possible that India has space for just one national idea: Once it was the Congress’ fuzzy, syncretic inclusiveness; now it is Modi’s Hindu nationalism.

If so, the death of the Congress would remove any national opposition to Modi. Regional identities would become ever more politically salient, and clashes between New Delhi and the state polities would become routine. That’s not an encouraging vision of India’s future. -Bloomberg

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  1. The Congress is paying a heavy price for its own obduracy. But a democracy does need a strong and effective opposition. If it has to build from scratch, minus the Gandhis, so be it.

  2. The author does not want to accept the fact that the electorate have lost faith with the Gandhi family . They do not believe that Rahul is capable of leading the country. That is only the reason they did not vote for congress. Therefore the problem is the leadership. The author does not want to accept this realty for obvious reasons. Hence this talk about Hindu majority.
    To say that Rahul did a good campaign is ridiculous. Nobody believed Rafelle and Nyay. That is the fact.

  3. The article refuses to address the main issue – which is Indian electorate has lost faith in the gandhi family. The author does not want to accept that fact. Hence the talk about Hindu Majority.

  4. BJP is now Congress of days after independence, where there was hardly any opposition or if it was, it was scattered. India moved ahead then and will move ahead now as well with strong regional parties and a one national party. Thus, we should let Congress die a natural death, if it is so. Besides, one thing is now clear- leaders from CWC resisted resigning despite a clear call from Rahul. This shows that while they want Gandhi’s at the helm so that they can enjoy power by pushing them to be the face of Congress, they do not want to give up any power themselves, come what may. So Gandhis’ have to serve their interests and not the other way round! In the light of this, it is difficult to understand what has been the thinking of Gandhi family post unfortunate death of Rajeev. Sonia had no political background and ideally, she would have nothing to do with Congress but she persisted, controlled power through Man Mohan Singh and forced unwilling, unsuitable Rahul into it as well. The result is what we see now. Indian democracy is well entrenched and safe. And there is nothing to fear if BJP is the only dominant only in the country.

  5. The complete removal of Congress from the national politics of India will not be such an unmitigated disaster as is made out by sections in the media, even if it actually happens. Some other opposition will take its place. Nature abhors a vacuum. The present Congress may itself come up in another avatar, probably for the better. Most significantly, it needs to free itself from the iron grip of the “family” on it and break the shackles of bondage.

  6. If the voters of India say we reject your choice of leader by Congress party , and say we cannot trust Rahul as the PM candiadate through out India except in two Hindu minority –states of Punjab and Kerala. It calls for rethinking on party s strategy ,ideology leadership , and election fighting tactics and choice of leadership which it offered to the people of India.What conclusion An average Congressman and its ardent supporting journalists draw out from recent debacle. Are voters of India are fool ? No, They never gave individual majority to Congress party after emotionally voting for it in 1984. Slide in party s fortune is continuous since 1989 . It did not started in 2014 or in 2019. If it want to survive it will have to expel ( stop not accepting resignation drama) Rahul and its coterie. IF surgery is not done there will be no revival. Best of luck to Congress well – wishers and supporters!

    • Your assertion that Kerala is a Hindu minority state is incorrect Mr Arora. The population of Hindus in Kerala is 55 percent of the population, a majority. It’s just that many Hindus in Kerala with exceptions have a different point of view about the BJP than the rest of the country’s Hindus.

  7. The author does not want to give credit where it ‘s due amd does not want to apportion blame too . He attributes BJP”s ascendency to some vague hazy global trend when the evidence quite clearly points to Narendra Modi;s chariisma .
    About the Congress party’s prognosis , the author may be right , buf if the congress party learns to survive whithout the gandhi’s , this so called loyalty t o a family is nothing but sycophancy and nepotism and either way india will be much better off .

  8. The writer is very concerned about losing the perks and bones that used to be thrown his way (and his ilk) for his loyalty to the family and his “service” to the family from the media as an opinion merchant. He is unsure about his own future.

  9. No …. Not at all ! Author’s assessment appears not to be well thought over.
    Not that Rahul was not a problem for the Congress. Undoubtedly, Rahul has been a great problem for the Congress. Not because Congress lost the election …. Congress had lost earlier too when Rahul was not around. Rahul has been a problem because he never appeared to be a matured person …. let alone a politician. He made the mockery of the institution of Congress President. He was never taken seriously by the people and by even many of his leaders. No cohesiveness was ever noticed in his behaviour, no thinking before speaking anything and no well thought strategy ever. He was also not seen having his own team to back him, which is an integral part of leading such a huge party for such a vast country of huge diversity.
    His grandmother as well as his father had the strong dynamic team to back them … the team personally committed to them. The team which would never allow the leader to commit mistakes. The team which would provide the feed back and updates. The team which will implement the ideas of the leader.
    True that the Congress had good manifesto, but the manifesto did not reach the electorate ….. Chowkidar Chor hai was the most important. Perhaps Rahul did not have the feed back of the public perception of his speeches. He did not have any strategy either.
    Be it as it may ….. The point is Rahul created problems for the party and went on embarrassing the party often. He simply does not have the skill and art of becoming a leader. Good that he stood on his quitting. And if at all he is honest in admitting his responsibility, he should be able introspect as well and he should be accepting his limitations and giving way facilitating a good leadership to the party.
    His resignation is not going to kill the party rather is going to provide it a rebirth and new vigour. Yes, it may take some time and some more mental courage to stand up fully on its feet.

    After all, Congress was not formed by this family and this is not the Congress which was there in Nehru’s time. Many groups came out of the party on one pretext and other which became independent parties altogether. Her grandmother herself caused vertical split in the party and there became Congress (S) and Congress (R). Sharad Pawar ji still has his own Congress, carving out of this Congress only. So, surely the party is not going to die. Yes, there will be power struggles and may be splits too. But the Congress is going to remain and remain a National Party in whatever form and manner.

    But the greater question is whether the family is going to leave the party and whether the so called loyalists would allow the family to leave the party. The leaders who have been enjoying a lot keeping the family at the front will do everything thing to keep the family in command of the party.
    And here is the real catch! The Loyalists coupled with the favourite media would keep some puppet as the head and the family would run the party by proxy …. a situation more vulnerable for the party than Rahul himself being in command. This would really result in weakening and finally making the party irrelevant.
    And this should be stopped by real Congressmen. They must ensure a real change takes place. A deserving and matured person should be stalled as the party president and an atmosphere should be allowed to prevail where the leaders can function freely and contribute to the good of the party.
    The country definitely needs a good opposition and only Congress is going to fulfill the task and only Congress would be in a position to be a govt in waiting.
    Eventually a two party system is in making and the Congress should not come in the way of History.
    So many years of struggle has made BJP a robust party capable to govern the country and so many years of power has made Congress complecent. The period of opposition would make the party introspect, research and find out it’s glory.
    Keeping and making Congress strong is as important for the country as BJP governing it properly and prudently. It remains to be seen whether Congress is able to take this historical task ahead in right perspective.

  10. Too grim a prognosis. We get accustomed to a particular pillow, do not sleep well for a couple of nights after changing it. Life goes on. A certain myth, evidently very convenient to the Gandhi family, has been fostered over the decades, that they are the glue that holds the party together. Absent them, like crabs in a bucket, everyone will keep pulling each other down. But that is what competitive politics in a democracy is all about. Kamala Harris socking it to Joe Biden. The Congress represents certain values, as the BJP does. Once in power, like an old couple, they begin to resemble each other. How would BSY be any different from HDK as CM of Maharashtra. Why does the BJP poach so extensively from the Congress if it was not a storehouse of political talent. In terms of governance / administrative acumen, the BJP is still struggling to measure up to its adversary, starting with management of the economy. Whether it is Gandhi vs non Gandhi in the Congress or Congress vs BJP in the wider political system, let us not place too much store in the present, deny the future. And one is not even talking about the regional parties, which many thought were an impediment to the emergence of a stable two party system but which have repeatedly proved their worth and relevance over the years. If Rahul Gandhi – or Priyanka, for that matter – was destined to be Prime Minister, he should have been working his ass off for the last twenty years.

  11. As usual Mihir Sharma underestimates India and its people. Rahul gandhi was the biggest obstacle for “true Opposition”.The “racket” that Gandhi family ran from Lutyens Delhi for the last 70 years – Modi has closed that racket down.

    Life as politics is all about change – Congress has to change or perish. Regardless, anyone in India who thinks there is no Opposition or criticism for this Govt clearly doesn’t know a thing about India.

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