VOICES ANIRBAN GANGULY AMAR BHUSHAN RAVI SHANKAR KG SURESH ANUJA CHANDRAMOULI MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS BUFFET MAGAZINE PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT AUGUST 4 2019 SUNDAY PAGES 12 CONGRESS PARTY The Ideology Trap Congressmen are determined that whoever the interim president is, the Gandhis must remain at the helm. However, in an outfit where personality has ousted ideology and regional leadership is emasculated, the party needs to change its design if it is to survive the merciless BJP poll machine. By RAVI SHANKAR The Nehru-Gandhis across generations, from Motilal Nehru to Rahul Gandhi T he hallmark of a successful politician is to play down victory and keep a game face after defeat. Date: May 30, 2019. Venue: Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi. Location: Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Who: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mother Heeraben. Emotionally absorbed in watching the swearing-in ceremony on TV she started clapping when President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of , office to her son for the second time on the vast forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan against the backdrop of the massive sandstone dome flying the Tricolour. At the same time on the same day with the temperatures , blazing in the forties, enter Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Rahul’s mother wore a stoic expression as she took her seat. But the son’s face gave story away The soon-to-resign Congress president looked as if he would . rather be in any other place than there, glaring at the ground while ministers took their oath. It was obvious that Rahul was traumatised. After its rout, the Congress has PTSD. Having forgotten that Rahul failed to win the mandate in spite of a gruelling campaign, leaders insist he stay on as party boss. Or get Priyanka. The siblings are in no mood to oblige. Time and again, the selection of at least an interim party boss was put off. The Congress is gripped by a crisis of ideology . Says a former Congress MP: “The RSS has powerful ideologues, ideology and cadre, which fuels the BJP We don’t . even have an ideologue.” Veteran Congress leader Dr Karan Singh differs. “Democracy sarv dharam sambhav, , the welfare of minority and Schedule Castes, economic structure and foreign policy — these are five foundations of Congress ideology You can . call it liberal, Left liberal if you like, or liberal values enshrined in the Constitution. We have to rearticulate it,” he explains. The BJP’s assault on minority accommodation by weaponising Hindutva has thrown secularism into the national shedder. The Congress response to Jai Shri Ram was to send Rahul to a few temples en route to some vote fishing rallies. Spin doctors coined a new phrase—‘soft Hindutva.’ Says a young MP , “We have to reach out to Hindus. Not with extreme Hindutva but in moderation so that we are not projected as anti-Hindu.” A former senior general secretary agrees saying that 80 percent of India’s population cannot be ignored. However, he calls the controversy around his gotra in Pushkar Temple and wearing a janeu bad optics. Young leaders are firm that the party cannot be seen as appeasing Muslims and Dalits. Scuttlebutt says an advisor felt that the sharp and scholarly Shashi Tharoor is the party’s best bet for party ideologue. Advice rejected. Too Westernised. “Our first priority should be the dissemination and revival of the party ideology the ,” former MP said. “ And find the right person to do it.” The main problem is the party itself. At the recent CWC meeting, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra flared up over the selection issue. “Party ka sab kaatil (killers) yahaan maujood hai,” she raged—all ,” the murderers of the Congress are here. Every leader present at the party headquarters on 24, Akbar Road is responsible for the decay of India’s oldest political outfit. Her question: Why haven’t you nurtured second and third level state leaders? Seriously? Irony just died. Priyanka goes on berating the huddling flock. Why are you so insecure? Why do you appoint only sycophants as DPCC and PCC presidents? Rahul intervenes to cool his sister’s bitter wrath, insisting politely that the priority is to fix the organisation. And the family is willing to help. But the onus has to be on the CWC. What are the choices for the catbird seat? Can’t Soniaji be Sonia interim president until the mess is cleaned up? No way Her advice is . available but that’s all. What about Mallikarjun Kharge or Sushilkumar Shinde? Too old. Jyotiraditya Scindia? Too arrogant. Sachin Pilot? Mustn’t destabilise Rajasthan and piss off CM Ashok Gehlot. So, it’s an organisation man after all. Who will keep his head down and work to restore the moribund party’s rank and file, induct new members, enthuse the district and state units. With an outsider as president, the siblings want to work on refurnishing the party’s decrepit wall of fame. The Gandhis have been holding one-to-one consultations with various leaders. offspring waiting to take over in their fast-fading pocket boroughs. But the interim president would be just a Band Aid to stop a haemorrhage. “Everyone knows the medicine, but who will prescribe it,” jokes an MP . Loyalists believe that Rahul will win the race in the long run since he is a class apart who believes in inner party democracy “Rahulji is a soft . target. Nobody else could have endured such abuse and trolling without missing a step. Try calling Modi or Amit Shah such names and see what happens. You will be arrested,” LOK SABHA ELECTIONS: VOTE SHARE OF INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS 48.1 47.8 1984 1957 45 1952 34.5 40.8 44.7 1962 1967 1977 43.7 1971 42.7 1980 39.5 1989 (Indira-Rajiv Gandhi) 36.4 1991 The BJP vote share this election was 37.4 percent while the Congress party got only 19.5 percent. 28.6 28.3 Annoyed young MPs ask why suggestions cannot be aired with everyone present? Let leaders throw up names, and settle on the best choice. But this not acceptable to the old warhorses who cling to the remnants of authority left, at least the party They have . claims an aide at Rahul’s new war room, which was moved to P Chidambaram’s government bungalow at 80 Lodhi Estate after elections were declared. Strategy meetings were held there every day attended by , heavyweights such as Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, Randeep Surjewala, Jairam Ramesh and Sam Pitroda; starting 4 pm and extending late into the morning. Little did they guess that the astrologer who recommended the change to an ageing CWC member got it so wrong. “We don’t have anyone who Turn to page 2 25.8 1998 2009 1999 26.5 Source: Election Commission of India 19.5 2004 19 2014 (Sonia-Rahul Gandhi) 2019
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