Watching television these days highlights, like never before, how bleak the voice of the Congress party has become. Apart from some young and new faces, who have been anointed as ‘spokespersons’ of the party, none of the designers of the campaign that brought on the worst ever defeat of the Grand Old Party are anywhere to be seen. When senior news anchors try to contact the Jairam Rameshs of the world, they do not take the calls and when they deign to, they refuse to face the questions that loom large on the future of the party. Surely the likes of Ramesh, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Jyotiraditya Scindia, R.P.N. Singh, Jitin Prasada, led by Rahul Gandhi, should be storming their way through the small screen, walking the talk and leading the party into the future. Why are they giving up the Opposition space, much like they did when they were ensconced in the treasury benches? Why are they unable to communicate with the people of India and engage with the real issues that continue to confront us all?
In Kerala, where the Congress is still at the helm, why has it succumbed to the demands of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad to imprison students and faculty because they allegedly published objectionable content against the Central government in a magazine? Has the Congress decided to censor and censure those who express their opinions fearlessly? Why are all the proponents of freedom of expression silent? Are they all on vacation post the debacle? It is saddening to witness the intellectual lethargy of the Congress who are not putting up a fight for what they supposedly believe in as opposed to the ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Young professionals who have worked with the Congress, in its ‘war room’, are feeling orphaned because not a single leader has tried to restart a dialogue, chalk out a plan of action, or begin a process of readjustment after analysing the reasons for the paralysis of the party that once represented the liberal ethos of the Indian polity. It is a shame that the Congress is content in its coma, unwilling to reinvent itself. It is unfathomable why the aged and those who failed have not been told to retire such that the party can be cleaned and fumigated for a fresh beginning. The unelectable men and women, older than 75 years, must be asked to pull themselves off the kursis they have been glued to. They should make way for a radical overhaul of people, systems and ideas to deal with a new age where engagement with the electorate is crucial.
It is embarrassing to see that the arrogant demeanour of the leaders, who have come close to losing their deposits, remain unchanged. It is pathetic to hear such men and women, who have lost by huge margins, proclaiming that the voting machines were manipulated by cell phones to ensure their defeat. Did none of them see or hear the anger, impatience and dislike for the United Progressive Alliance II government led by Manmohan Singh? Outside that ivory tower, we all knew what was in store for the Congress but none of the party people were willing to listen. They were wallowing in the classic ‘we know best and we know more than you’ syndrome that eventually drowned them.
The truly disturbing reality of this destructive trait is that Indian democracy is being negatively affected. India needs an efficient Opposition as an effective watchdog in the Parliament who can support the ruling party when it is correct and counter it with an alternative when the issues are potentially controversial. Why can’t the Congress rise to that erstwhile stature and quality that has always been admired and respected? The standards have fallen abysmally and need to be rebuilt.