To survive, Congress needs to regain credibility

Some political pundits are predicting the slow demise of India’s grand old party, Congress, after its pathetic show in the recent national elections.

They are reading too much into the party’s poll loss. Congress is still a national party that can bounce back if its high command is willing to bring about drastic structural reforms.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC), which met on Saturday to examine what led to the poll debacle, gave party president Rahul Gandhi a free hand to restructure it.

But their appeal for reform came after Rahul accepted moral responsibility for the poll loss and offered to resign.

The CWC rejected the offer and reaffirmed their faith in his leadership. So far, Rahul has not taken back his resignation. He insists a non-Gandhi should take over the reins to remove the dynastic tag which has become a bane for the party.

The Congress party denies reports of Rahul’s resignation. According to a Congress official, Rahul is seeking a different party role that will give him more time to formulate plans for the decimation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As Congress chief, much of Rahul’s time is being spent on state tours, meetings and sorting of issues between leaders.

Rahul told the CWC that he was not happy with the way the party affairs were managed at the micro level. For instance, leaders failed to follow orders to open communication channels with voters at booth level months before the general election.

Two chief ministers of Congress-ruled central states and a former union minister were focused on constituencies where their sons were fighting the elections.

Rahul said he was also upset over factionalism, clash of egos and lack of discipline among leaders.

Amid uncertainty over Rahul’s leadership, critics question CWC for rallying behind a leader who seems to have become more a liability for the party. Let the party accept his resignation and name a leader outside the Gandhi family, they argue.

While the CWC sees Rahul as sincere, humble, hardworking, positive and accommodative, critics find him immature, inconsistent, negative and divisive. Rahul ignored veterans and tried to prop up his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and friends such as Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, critics say.

If Rahul is still adamant on quitting the top post, Congress will be forced to elect a new leader and allow the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to take up any other role he would like to assume.

Among leaders qualified enough to replace Rahul are Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, senior party leader and former diplomat Sashi Tharoor and former defence minister AK Anthony.

Congress can still bounce back if it looks more inward and takes positive steps to win back voters. The obsession with Modi, BJP and RSS and the lies being spread against them must stop. Leaders of the grand old party must stick to truth and try to regain credibility.