Watching the Congress self-destruct at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party too is in a shambles, with its senior leaders pulling in different directions, one feels that a liberal, modern and democratic future is being threatened by the sceptre of a demagogic ruler who could damage the polity and the social fabric profoundly. The Congress seems to be working at projecting Narendra Modi as the next prime minister by diluting every mechanism of competent governance. Corporate India will endorse the present chief minister of Gujarat who is considered to be the best man for businesses to prosper. The burgeoning middle class will also be drawn to this kind of rhetoric.
Something has to give. For the last eight years, it has been touted that the Congress president enforces the agenda for the government and that the prime minister is a mere CEO for party initiatives. Clearly, this has not been the case at all. This was pure gossip generated by the idle sections within the political class. It indicated their superficial comprehension of political history. Sonia Gandhi resurrected the party and ensured its victory to form a coalition government with Left support in 2004. Her ‘interferences’ were initiatives recommended to the government, which is responsible for addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor. That compassion in a ruthless free market economy dominated by the rich created a balance between policies for the affluent and those directed at the neglected and the exploited. It won the Congress 200-odd seats in the next general election.
The government believed that the incredible victory could be attributed to the free market policies and the nuclear deal, whereas the Congress knew that the success was achieved due to the steps it had taken to care for the people. It was, most definitely, Sonia Gandhi’s victory. Soon, Congress leaders began to isolate themselves from their constituents, thereby becoming disconnected from the reality on the ground. They indulged in personal aggrandizement and began to jockey for power within the corroding structure of the party. The government, after witnessing the competitiveness and the confusion that arose on account of the personal motives, ironically helped these elements dig in their heels and operate outside the larger programme devised by the party.
Today, the failure of the government and governance is apparent. Corruption has been exposed at the highest levels. Command economy oldies in the cabinet are reverting to draconian measures to camouflage mismanagement and their inability to get the babus to enforce existing laws. Clearly, the government needs to go. What we are witnessing is ‘end of empire’, something that cannot be seen by those in power because they are drunk on it. Power is headier than any other intoxicant.
Having represented a liberal ideology and having stood for a multi-cultural, multi-lingual nation state, the Congress and the government it leads have let down India in a shrinking global order in which information is king. Having been reduced to a banana republic over the last few years, characterized by the horrors of malgovernance surfacing in and dominating the public domain, the Congress has to shuffle the players in the government. The party will have to work out a stringent plan that will restore its credibility as well as that of its government for the immediate future.
The Congress is like a rabbit blinded by the headlights of a car, flustered and running in the wrong direction. Hard decisions and an overhaul are the desperate needs of the hour. The party will have to take these steps if it is to survive the next general election.