CONG NEARS DEAD-END POST-AZAD BOMBSHELL
Next steps to decide its survival
Congress Party, with which he was associated for five long decades; Ghulam Nabi Azad has virtually written the epitaph of the Grand Old Party. Shaken to the core, the party has announced election schedule for choosing a new President; but how seriously, and fairly, it goes about this process will decide its future.
After Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar left the party in 1999 over the then PM-aspirant Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue, Azad is the first leader of stature to have raised basic issues about the direction in which the Congress was being led by a coterie around Rahul Gandhi.
In a five-page letter to interim President Sonia Gandhi, Azad said the Congress has lost both the will and the ability to fight for what is right for India under tutelage of the coterie that runs the AICC.
“The entire organisational election process is a farce and a sham. At no place anywhere in the country have elections been held at any level of the organisation. Handpicked lieutenants of the AICC have been coerced to sign on lists prepared by the coterie that runs the AICC sitting in 24 Akbar Road,” Azad said in his scathing letter. Expectedly enough, the party establishment’s response to Azad’s bombshell has been petulant. Congress’ media wing head Jairam Ramesh accused Azad of treachery and questioned his motives.
Meanwhile, the clamour in the party for Rahul Gandhi to reconsider his decision of not contesting the election for the top post has grown louder. Also, while Congressmen should be busy making preparations for the crucial party elections, Rahul is set to lead a Bharat Jodo Yatra (March to unify India) that will cover nearly 3,500 km across India over the course of 150 days.
An irony that cannot be missed is that the Congress is embarking to ‘unify the nation’ at a time when the party itself is a divided house. It is inarguable that the politically marginalised party is in a shambles.
Senior leaders have been deserting it with regular frequency, interim head Sonia Gandhi is battling ill health and Rahul Gandhi is unwilling to take on the responsibility. Still, the reins of the party are firmly held by the mother-son duo and the family remains the powercentre. The rot in the party needs to be stemmed, but how? That remains a critical question.
The Gandhi family is in a spot now. It will be ridiculed if one of them ends up as President, and if none of them remains at the helm, new dynamics with unpredictable consequences could accrue. On the other hand, if the Gandhis are seen to be backing a particular horse in the presidential race, it will cast a shadow over the entire poll process.
The best course for the party, and the family, will be to facilitate an election that is as fair as possible, and use it as an opportunity to open an honest conversation on revamp of the Congress.
The party, undoubtedly, is in a state of terminal decline and the old strategy of waiting-out the periods out of power will not work now. It is at the crossroads or a dead-end will depend on what it decides to do now, post-Azad and post-party President’s election.