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What is the Congress, the grand old party (GOP) of India, without the Sonia Gandhi clan helming it? Assuming the terminally ill patient can still be saved in the larger interests of India, how to bring about the miracle? Finally is there any other savior on the horizon?

The AAP could be a viable option to the Congress, even granting its soft Hindutva approach, but it doesn’t have an all India presence.  Kejriwal’s failure to speak up for the Muslims during the anti-CAA protests and during the Delhi riots showed it can’t be trusted much. Still one has to work on the material available. That is fine.

But the battle for sanity, harmony, secularism is urgent.  We began to face challenges in 2014, and they have since intensified. See High Courts can legislate against hijabs too, needlessly hurting Muslim sentiments. We can’t then afford to  wait for the AAP to gain momentum.

We come back to the almost impossible task of revivifying Congress then.  But then how to do it?  One can glibly call for collective leadership with someone like the media savvy Shashi Tharoor as the new president. But that is a ridiculous proposition, Shashi might be a lady killer, but he is not going to win votes anywhere.  Not even in Thiruvananthapuram, without the backing of the Sonia Congress. Not a single charismatic figure for miles.

For good or bad, the Nehru magic subsists under the surface in many parts of the country and which has to be tapped – only the trio can do that.  Besides some party machinery exists, for whatever it is worth, in most states.

But in order to strengthen a party,  one can only turn to  the triumvirate of Sonia-Rahul-Priyanka. But with her ailment always hovering over her, the mother would look for some rest and peace, and so the mantle will stay with the children.

Our dynastic problem started with the installation of Mrs Indira Gandhi after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. There was no need to do so at all. The Congress was powerful and there were many senior leaders who could have taken over.

Dynasty is most certainly bad, even under autocracy, leaving little scope for jostling, essential  for diffusing power. Most politicians in India seek to groom their progeny to protect their own turf and their ill-gotten wealth, not exactly a phenomenon  to be seen in  ‘mature’ democracies.

Our dynastic problem started with the installation of Mrs Indira Gandhi after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. There was no need to do so at all. The Congress was powerful and there were many senior leaders who could have taken over.

Even if they were  not vote-catchers, some way could have been figured out down the line. Shastri himself was not  a charismatic leader by any yardstick. That was the moment to sculpt collective leadership.  But the then Congress President K Kamaraj feared too much of internal squabbles, besides he thought the slip of a girl could be manipulated easily.

But she turned against the Syndicate in her own sweet time – whatever the morality of her actions, the fact remains the Nehru magic received a fresh lease of  life.

I don’t think she was a great administrator, her hubris doing her in fatally. But it must be remembered that despite her compromises with the Hindu religious sentiments, she still didn’t go overboard.

Congress

Rahul Gandhi In Wayanad ( Photo Credit: Congress Twitter Handle)

She might have foolishly encouraged Bhindranwale, but even when she realized it was backfiring, she did not seek to set the Hindus against the Sikh quam.  She did not see it as a fight between the Hindus and the Sikhs and had no personal resentment against the Sikhs. So much so she wouldn’t even countenance the suggestion to remove Sikh security guards, paving the way for her own assassination.

Rajiv Gandhi was certainly guilty of failing to intervene in  time to put down the arsonists in 1984 or prosecute those involved.  But the party never lost its secular moorings.

His colossal blunder was of course turning tail when the Islamists furiously objected to the Shah Bano judgement and then stoking the mandir fires as if atoning for the first. We are still to recover.

Now Sonia Antonio Maino was not very keen to enter politics. If anything, she had strongly objected to her husband’s becoming PM after his mother was killed. Probably she wanted her own quiet life. Rajiv himself had stepped in after Sanjay Gandhi’s death only reluctantly – but then he had,  and so he had to go the full hog whatever his wife’s apprehensions.

For a year and more, she was humming and hawing, but was eventually forced to take the plunge, and the headless chickens magically grew their heads again!  She committed her quota of blunders, still people chose to repose their trust in the GOP under her leadership. But for the even greater blunders of the Left,  the UPA might have survived and we would be seeing a relatively humane, or at least less oppressive government, even if inept and/or corrupt otherwise.

But for the even greater blunders of the Left,  the UPA might have survived and we would be seeing a relatively humane, or at least less oppressive government, even if inept and/or corrupt otherwise.

Prof Nandini Sundar, in her  dispassionate work on the Maoist struggle in Bastar, The Burning Forest, repeatedly makes the point that while both the Congress and the BJP only served the corporate interests, any day the Congress was less vicious in dealing with the poorest of the poor and certainly had a little more compunction. All that came to nothing thanks to the ever-America-obsessed comrades.

As if karma was having the last laugh, in the 2009 elections, the CPM fared poorly in West Bengal, bagging a measly nine seats. Near total eclipse was to follow. The UPA did manage to win a majority for itself, but disaster awaited it.

Now just as one would think the Congress is perhaps a lesser evil, the CPM, for all its Stalinist arrogance, still can be counted upon to function as the conscience of the nation, with some moral scruples that don’t bother the rest.  So then the decline of both the parties served the nation ill.

(Click here to read the concluding part of this article)


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