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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 17.11.00
No surprised eyebrows will be raised at the results of the Congress presidential election. Nobody will even be astonished at the overwhelming nature of the verdict. Even Mr Jitendra Prasada, who opposed Ms Sonia Gandhi, expected that he would put up a semblance of a fight. That Mr Prasada is being ridiculed and bullied is unfortunate. His token resistance to Ms Gandhi is imbued with some significance for the Congress party. In a very quixotic way, Mr Prasada, knowing very well that he would be trounced in the hustings, was trying to reassert the democratic principle within the Congress organization. The Congress is run on sycophancy. This has been the case since the time of Indira Gandhi. Mr Prasada's completely inconsequential candidature reveals that very few Congressmen are willing to think outside the dynasty. The massive majority Ms Gandhi commands would have been justified if Ms Gandhi had been a very successful leader. There has been nothing remarkable about her presidentship of the party save the fact that under her the party returned the lowest number of members to the Lok Sabha. Ms Gandhi also has not encouraged Congressmen to think beyond the dynasty. When Mr Sharad Pawar challenged her leadership she responded with an uncharacteristic emotional outburst. Mr Prasada might sink without a trace in the murky waters of Congress politics. But he tried to make a point. Having received a huge mandate from her partymen, Ms Gandhi must address the task of rejuvenating the Congress. In the space of a decade, the Congress has been reduced to an also-ran in Indian politics. It picks up consolation prizes in the electoral race. It is not clear from her past record what Ms Gandhi plans to do to get the Congress back on its feet. Even more unclear is what she herself stands for in terms of policies. At times, it seems that she wants to hark back to the populism of her mother-in-law; at other times she articulates policies formulated by Mr Manmohan Singh who remains one of her chief advisers on economic matters. There does not exist any well-thought-out programme to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party and the fanaticism of the sangh parivar. The Congress seems to thrive on ad hocism. The situation is aggravated by the silence and the air of mystery that Ms Gandhi rather likes to cultivate. To revive the Congress, a leader would need charisma and that ineffable ability to feel the pulse of the people. She lacks the first and has not been long enough in politics to acquire the second. A surname is no surrogate for charisma and for going to the people. Ms Gandhi has won an election inside the Congress party. But there is a world outside the Congress where success is determined by political arithmetic and the ability to mobilize the masses. Only if she delivers can she be certain that there will not be pretenders in the future.