Will Congress and Gandhis introspect themselves after Bihar poll debacle?

Gandhi Family - Congress

A seizable Congress leaders again challenged the Gandhi family leadership in the wake of humiliating defeat of the century-old party in Bihar and in by-elections in some states. As many as 23 senior Congress leaders are believed to have sent a letter to party Chief Sonia Gandhi demanding that the Congress Working Committee meet at the earliest to discuss the election result and the holding of organisational elections for the party president’s post.

A similar letter was sent to the party high command in August last year, causing ructions within the party. Six years after the party’s electoral rout pushed it into a continuing downward spiral, 23 senior leaders of the Congress, including five former Chief Ministers, many Congress Working Committee members, sitting MPs, and several former Union Ministers, had, in an unprecedented pushback, sent the letter to party Chief Sonia Gandhi calling for sweeping changes, from top to bottom. Acknowledging the rise of the BJP and admitting that the youth decisively voted for Narendra Modi, the letter had pointed out that the erosion of the support base and losing the confidence of the youth were matters of serious concern. The August letter had called for a “full time and effective leadership” which is both “visible” and “active” in the field; elections to the CWC; and the urgent establishment of an “institutional leadership mechanism” to “collectively” guide the party’s revival.

In the new letter aftermath of Bihar election results, the senior Congress leaders pointed out that during the peak of the Bihar poll campaign and the election results on Tuesday, Rahul and sister Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra were holidaying in Shimla. The Congress, which contested 70 seats in Bihar, could win only 19 of them. Can such a casual approach happen in any other party which has a national presence? The absence of Sonia Gandhi and other senior party leaders in the Bihar campaign were the main cause of concern for the party leaders.

To make things worse for the party, the adverse remark by former US president Barack Obama about Rahul Gandhi — that he has a nervous, unformed quality about him, as if he were a student who’d done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject — could not have come at a worse time.

During the campaigning, if Rahul Gandhi addressed lesser number of rallies than a much busier Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party’s ‘other star’, Priyanka Gandhi didn’t even venture out in a campaign. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP routed Congress in 19 of the 27 by-polls, necessitated by defection of Congress MLAs. The elections saw Kamal Nath slugging it out with the backing of Digvijaya Singh and other state leaders while the Gandhis kept away from the campaigning. In UP, all Congress candidates lost by-polls, which saw BJP winning six and SP one seat. In Gujarat, the Congress lost all eight seats where elections were held after its MLAs quit. The defeat of Congress in two Karnataka by-polls too confirmed the slide.

The new letter by 23 Congress leaders clearly enunciates that regaining of voter confidence in the Congress was of utmost importance. Like the last time, Ghulam Nabi Azad is believed to have taken the lead in preparing and despatching letter this time too.

Surprisingly, there was no reaction of Gandhi family in connection with the Bihar and by-poll results of some states, so far. Only the senior Congress leader Tariq Anwar came out with the candid admission that his party, on account of its dismal performance in the Bihar assembly elections, emerged as the weak link preventing the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) from forming its government in the state.

The senior Congress leader, Anwar also an AICC general secretary called for “urgent and deep introspection” over the debacle of the party. “We must accept the truth. Because of the poor performance of the Congress, Bihar has been deprived of a Mahagathbandhan government. The Congress must introspect as to where it faltered. Also, the entry of AIMIM in Bihar is not a good sign,” he further pointed out.

Since 2014, the Congress has lost two Lok Sabha elections and many Congress-ruled states. There is no doubt that there is urgent need for the Congress to introspect and correct itself.

-M Charulata