Inner voices: The Congress in turmoil
A churn need not yield nectar; it can dredge up toxic truths. The rumblings within the Congress seem to bear testimony to this hypothesis. A meeting of the Congress’s Rajya Sabha members called by the interim president, Sonia Gandhi, to discuss the monumental failures of Narendra Modi’s government in managing the crises in health and at the border, ironically, bared the deep fault lines within the party. The decision by some members to pin the blame of the Congress’s political slide on the government led by Manmohan Singh — this has now been denied — was roundly criticized by veterans; the bickering shows, once again, that the chasm between the Young Turks and the Old Guard is unlikely to be bridged any time soon. This festering antagonism within the ranks is symptomatic of a broader crisis. The mantle of leadership remains unclaimed even though the consequences of this power vacuum have been disastrous for the party. Defection has reared its ugly head during this period of transition, enabling the Bharatiya Janata Party to topple Congress regimes in state after state. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have been lost; the fate of the government in Rajasthan hangs in the balance. The structural lacuna has been complemented by a moral challenge. The commitment to the party, its ideals and, more important, to the nation has been seriously breached by the willingness to trade ideology for the perks of power. Why else would Congress leaders, young and old, be willing to change party affiliation and, with it, their ideological spots? This erosion can only be neutralized by an energetic leadership capable of deft political management, something that the Congress seems to lack at the moment.
The cost of this inertia can be high for the Congress. But it can be even steeper for the nation. In a democracy, the Opposition — the Congress is the principal component of this constituency — is tasked with making the government of the day accountable to the people. The turmoil within the Congress is preventing it from demanding crucial answers from the ruling BJP about the serious lapses that it is committing on multiple fronts. The health of Indian democracy is predicated upon the resurrection of the Congress as a vibrant, viable political force. For this to happen, the party must douse the fires within with immediate effect.