Rebellion at the peak within the Congress?


It seems that rebellion is still brewing within the grand old party as the senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has again raised his voice for internal party organizational elections. He has said that if the party wants to sit in the opposition for the next 50 years then there is no need for party elections.

Azad was one of the signatories among 23 senior party leaders, who questioned the party leadership through a letter, addressed to its interim president, Sonia Gandhi, recently. The political drama in CWC meeting over the letter understandably added to the uneasiness in the party about the leadership vacuum in the Congress.

In a 27 minute video shared on his official Facebook page, Azad said that this should have happened 10-15 years ago. ‘For the last many decades, we do not have elected bodies at the party. Now we are losing elections after elections, and if we have to come back we need to strengthen our party. Holding elections is one way of doing that.’

Azad’s sharp reaction came after the Congress president Sonia Gandhi restructured party panels in both the houses of the Parliament, ahead of the session, starting September 14. She has included her confidants in the new five-member panel in Rajya Sabha, while elevated two young MPs to more senior positions in Lok Sabha. This also has an underline message to those who challenged her leadership through the letter where Azad was one of the signatories.

These panels would be responsible for forming the party’s strategy in both the houses as the party needs to revisit its strategy. However, the former union minister and Rajya Sabha member Kapil Sibal was not included in the strategy forming the committee. Sibal was also one of the signatories of the dissent letter. Moreover, while restructuring the Congress panels in both the houses, the Opposition leader, Azad was not taken into confidence. This also shows that Nehru-Gandhi clan would not tolerate those who raise questions against them.

On the other hand, Azad’s term as leader of opposition ends in February 2021. A party veteran from the Sanjay Gandhi era, Azad led the Congress successfully in the 2002 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly election. It seems that he would not be re-elected for the post after his terms expires in February next.

Azad had claimed that those who fear losing elections are holding back the letter. These CWC members get their posts via ‘nominations’, and want to continue like that. “Those office-bearers or state unit presidents or block district presidents who attack our proposal know that they will be nowhere when elections happen. Whoever is genuinely invested in the Congress will welcome the letter. State, district and block president of the party should be elected by the party workers,” he said.

Questioning about those who are opposing the idea of party elections Azad said that an election has the benefit that when you fight elections, at least your party is 51 percent behind you. Right now, the person who becomes president might not even have one percent support. If CWC members are elected then they cannot be removed. However, the basic questions, raised by these senior leaders were not answered in the CWC meeting thus led to the mini-rebellion within the party.

Such rebellion is not the new things in the century-old organisation in recent past, particularly in post-Narendra Modi era. The Modi government’s decision to scrap Article 370 was also divided the Gandhi-Nehru dominated party.

At a meeting of CWC, the party’s apex decision-making body, last year, the ‘Young Turks’ of the party had launched a virtual revolt against the high command for its refusal to read the public mood. “Whatever we may think about the government’s decision but the people outside are all for this. We have to face the people in our constituencies,” one of the young leaders was reportedly said in the meeting.

Moreover, during the period, the then senior party leader, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who recently joined the BJP and Deepender Hooda, had gone public with their support for the government’s move on Article 370 even as the Congress was opposing it in Parliament.

Why the Congress leadership is not ready to understand the public mood and the views of its senior leaders even after humiliating defeats of two consecutive general elections in 2014 and 2019, respectively?

The truth is that the Congress has been in a state of limbo ever since Rahul Gandhi put in his papers as party chief over a year ago. Sonia Gandhi’s appointment as interim Congress president may have staved off an immediate crisis but the fact that it is only a temporary arrangement has been cold comfort to the dejected and dispirited rank and file.

As the Congress loses state governments and leaders and shows no signs of revival, there is a sense of urgency in the party that a full-time president be appointed at the earliest to provide direction to its cadre. This has led to the usual clamour from party sycophants that Rahul Gandhi be brought back to helm the Congress. But there is also a silent majority in the party which is not only sceptical about Rahul Gandhi’s return but believes it is now time a non-Gandhi is given charge of the Congress. Besides the fact that there is growing revulsion to dynastic politics among the people, the Nehru-Gandhi scion has also failed to deliver for them.

It was for the same reason that the Congress lost a prominent party face, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and the government in Madhya Pradesh, to the BJP barely a few months ago. The century-old party should think a refresh about its leadership so that it can be revived!