Monday, 30th October 2017

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Rahul Gandhi reveals: At times, I stood completely alone

His letter radiated a sense of deep hurt, if not helplessness, at the reluctance of Congress organisation to support him

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 4.07.19, 3:10 AM
  • Updated 4.07.19, 3:35 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Rahul Gandhi outside Parliament on Wednesday Picture by Prem Singh

Rahul Gandhi has made public his resignation as Congress president through an extraordinary letter, pointing out that accountability for the election defeat cannot be enforced without owning up responsibility at the top and revealing that “at times, he stood completely alone”.

If the letter stood out for its candid and earnest tone, it did not lift the curtains fully on an element of enigma that has always enveloped Rahul who stepped into public life reluctantly but immersed himself in battle with, in his own words, “my full being”.

The letter did radiate a sense of deep hurt, if not helplessness, at the reluctance of the Congress organisation to support him as “I personally fought the Prime Minister, the RSS and the institutions they have captured with all my being”.

Then came the damning disclosure: “And I fought to defend the ideals India was built upon. At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it.”

What was not clear was whether Rahul was throwing down the gauntlet to those who had deserted him on the battlefield or whether he was hoping to act as a countervailing moral force operating outside the precincts of the Congress organisational apparatus.

The paragraph tucked in the middle of the nearly 1,000-word resignation letter hinted at the complexity of the internal equations in the Congress. The portrait that comes through is that of soldiers unwilling to fight to the finish and a commander feeling alone on the battlefield probably because of sabotage.

Rahul said he could not have enforced accountability without sacrificing his own post.

“As president of the Congress, I am responsible for the loss of the 2019 election. Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president. Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as president of the party,” he said in the letter.

Rahul picked up the thread towards the end of the letter. “It is a habit in India that the powerful cling to power, no one sacrifices power. But we will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle.”

The two paragraphs are being seen as evidence of the farcical nature of the so-called “free hand” given to him by the Congress Working Committee. Rahul is publicly admitting that he was unable to cut the deadwood out and that many were not willing to relinquish their positions in the party. His emphasis on “sacrifice” signals rigid structures in the party that couldn’t be reformed easily.

While the deep sense of hurt is not surprising after the way in which Narendra Modi has gained dominance, the letter suggests the anguish has been amplified by the intrigue within the Congress.

A Congress leader told this newspaper after Rahul tweeted the letter: “It is a myth that Rahul got a free hand. His simple orders were not followed. Cliques around him knew how to manipulate. His problem is far more complex as, unlike Sonia, he saw through the games. He had to go because he is not ignorant.”

The letter did not give any impression that Rahul has lost the stomach for challenging Modi and the BJP. Rahul said he would fight till his last breath.

“I have no hatred or anger towards the BJP but every living cell in my body instinctively resists their idea of India…. Where they see differences, I see similarity. Where they see hatred, I see love. What they fear, I embrace. This compassionate idea permeates the hearts of millions and millions of my beloved fellow citizens. It is this idea of India that we will now vehemently defend,” Rahul said.

“The Prime Minister’s win does not negate the breadth of corruption allegations against him; no amount of money and propaganda can ever hide the light of the truth.”

He added: “The Indian nation must unite to reclaim and resuscitate our institutions. The instrument of this resuscitation will be the Congress party. To achieve this important task, the Congress party must radically transform itself. Today the BJP is systematically crushing the voice of the Indian people. It is the duty of the Congress party to defend these voices.”

But the letter leaves behind the impression that Rahul thinks getting bogged down in fratricidal wars was a waste of time. He knows he cannot deal with the internal power structure without shaking up the system with his own resignation.

Rahul will continue as party president till the Congress Working Committee chooses his replacement. He is scheduled to attend a hearing in an RSS case in Maharashtra on Thursday.