Having been decimated at the hustings, the Congress had disappeared into its shell for the last few weeks, possibly to recover from the shock of being reduced to 44 members in the Parliament. The party had believed that its achievements would hold it in good stead and help it lead a secular coalition, albeit with substantially reduced numbers. Those who had earned the reputation of being sycophantic supporters did a huge injustice to the top leadership by consciously not spilling the beans in the sanctum sanctorum of the party about the unprecedented anger directed against the Manmohan Singh-led government. None took the truth home.
The corrupt, inactive and arrogant UPA II took its toll on the Congress. The United Progressive Alliance’s warts reflected badly on the ‘family’ as well. It was clear that the government, led by an ageing but honest leader, had ceased to have any resonance. Out in the public domain, everyone knew that the Congress would be reduced to double digits and that Narendra Modi, who had spent time out in the field engaging with an India hungry for information,would garner a complete majority for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Only Congressmen and women looked smug and offered irrelevant explanations to make themselves believe that the world was wrong and they were right. Those of us who talked about such a possibility were deemed ‘rats who were abandoning a sinking ship’. Ironically, it was the sycophants and party leaders who damaged the Congress by finding ways of disregarding the truth.
After this disaster, one had imagined that the Congress organization would be revamped so that the party can compete the next elections on a strong footing. Instead, the former defence minister, an indecisive and weak leader, has been asked to head an internal group that will try and figure out what went wrong. It requires no rocket science to unravel the obvious reasons for the debacle and to identify the fundamental defects in the party and its leadership. Had the winners of this election along with some of the losers under the age of 60 been at the helm of the restructuring, the exercise could have been taken seriously. But to have the same characters who destroyed the party determine its future organizational structure is comical, to say the least. India desperately needs a strong Opposition if we want to be a mature and influential democracy that wields respect in the region and across the world.
Why does the Congress leadership have a deep aversion towards fruitful engagement and debate? Why is it unwilling to keep its doors open and embrace its members and well-wishers? Why this inability to hear of and act upon all the wrongs? Why is every critic denied access to the top leadership? Why this fear to hear the negatives? Why did the top three leaders not engage with India? Why does every young and middle-aged person, committed to the Congress’s ideology in spite of the debilitating defeat, suffer from a feeling of being isolated and ignored? Why does nobody reach out, even now, to the younger generation of Congress workers to listen to and comprehend what they are saying? Why this pompous dismissal of critical appraisals?
Even the older leaders, those of my generation, are feeling confused about and alienated from the top leaders. Only the handful who are trusted by the high command, the painful debacle that the advisors brought upon the party notwithstanding, continue to rule the roost. They remain in a state of denial and are supremely arrogant. Surely the leadership respects democratic systems. Why opt for this closed-door ruling system? Why this ivory tower syndrome?