The abrupt collapse of the Mahagathbandan in Bihar has led to another round of criticism directed at AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi. And rightly so.
Rahul and the Congress need to wake up fast. The idea of checking Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP is tough, if not impossible. Modi is fast becoming a catalyst for political parties and politicians to coalesce around him and his popularity among the masses is increasing by the day. The Opposition's "Modi Hatao" campaign will not work, just as "Indira Hatao" had not worked.
Unlike Britain's Jeremy Corbyn, Rahul is unable to stick to ideology or values that he claims to propagate. The pressure from the Congress for him to be successful by any means is so much that, on most occasions, he acts almost against his own instincts and wishes. Rahul is unable to follow what both Right and Left ideologies have achieved by simply sticking to the position they had taken.
India's Grand Old Party needs to go back to basics instead of fancying rainbow coalitions and mahagathbandans. The Congress needs to take small, baby steps to stay relevant and execute its plans. It needs to set up and strengthen small units and groups that focus on the age-old principles of the party.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s up to the 1980s and 1990s, the Sangh Parivar floated dozens of outfits that kept trying to damage the Congress and its icons -- Nehru and Gandhi. It succeeded in gaining both momentum and public support. The wheel of time is such that a combination of think tanks, local popular campaigns, common sense and thrust on ideology would yield results. Rahul must stop asking himself rather restlessly, “akhir kab” (when) during these testing times.
There is no plausible explanation as to why Rahul chose to meet Nitish Kumar if the AICC vice-president was so convinced of the Bihar Chief Minister being set on switching sides. Why was Tejashwi Yadav's resignation not secured in advance just to scuttle Nitish-BJP plans, even if for the time being?
It was an opportunity for Rahul to showcase how he, even as a beneficiary of dynasty politics, was opposed to it beyond a limit to the extent of pulling out Congress Ministers from the erstwhile JD (U)-RJD Government. Instead, Sonia Gandhi chose to humour Tejashwi, losing out in public perception.
Rahul should know that both his family and the Congress are rather incapable of dealing with 'Third Front' leaders. This was evident throughout the United Front regime in 1996-97 when the Congress leadership played havoc with the Governments headed by HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral. During private conversations, most senior Congress leaders give expression to their utter disdain and low opinion of Janata parivar leaders for their thrust on caste-based equations, rustic manners and ability to peform amazing asanas to suit their interest.
In the present day Congress, big decisions are taken without consulting either the Congress Working Committee or the AlCC. When the Congress decided to have an alliance with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, even the State Congress unit was not consulted. Before the last Assembly election, Mamata Banerjee kept offering an alliance in West Bengal but the party chose to side with the Left. Both demonetisation and GST were criticised just for the heck of it.
The Congress's electoral prospects for 2019 look grim but the way Sonia-Rahul are running the party, even survival appears bleak. By 2018, the map of India will show a virtual 'Congress-mukt Bharat' in terms of no Congress-ruled State.
Yet there is no concern, leave alone worry, in the higher rungs of the party, more so in the High Command.
(Rasheed Kidwai is the Associate Editor with The Telegraph. His Twitter handle is: @rasheedkidwai)
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