By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal
The Grand Old Party has yet another election debacle in Bihar and as the dirty in house laundry is being washed in public by Congress top brass, maybe as a voter belonging to the middle class, whom Congress has lost a long time ago, I can offer my two cents on the state of the congress party and what it can do to change that. My intention is to see a stronger opposition that can question the government on its actions and policies in the interest of the public. Though I know that my advice will fell on deaf ears but nevertheless it’s my democratic duty to speak the truth to those “not” in power.
Let Go of the Gandhi’s: The thing with PM Modi’s appeal is that one can relate to his humble background, there is a connection at an emotional level with the masses in the picture of an ordinary Chaiwala rising to hold the top office in the land. Without money or power of a family name, Modi’s success is something that the middle class of this country can only dream of and can associate to. That connection or emotional appeal is not present in the Gandhi family. The Trinity of Rahul, Sonia, and Priyanka Gandhi is just a distant figurehead that has nothing in common with the ordinary Indians.
Gandhi’s may be decent, ordinary folks in person but from a perspective of a voter, they have achieved their position because of their last name. From where I see things, they didn’t have to work for it, and nor will they ever let any ordinary Congress worker, let alone an Indian, take the highest post in the Congress party. As a middle-class voter, I don’t feel any obligation or loyalty towards that family, in fact, the awe and reverence the Congress leaders have reeks of sycophancy. So long story short, if Congress ever wants to enjoy fruits of power, they have to leave Gandhis behind.
Get the Fresh Blood: Much of it may sound cliché but Gandhi’s are just one part of the problem. Much of the Congress top brass comprises of old loyalists or their family members. Party ranks are oozing with nepotism and when grassroots workers do not get promotion and recognition in the party, they would drift away to other parties. There are few exceptions such as Sachin Pilot but then again his treatment at the hands of Congress kind of reinforces the perception that if you have potential, you don’t belong in the party. If talented people don’t see any future in Congress, they would prefer some other political avenue, many good leaders have left and those that haven’t will leave sooner or later. Congress should reach out to disenchanted ground-level workers; give them positions of responsibility and a free hand to operate. Of course, it will lead to the ouster of the elites close to the Gandhis but Congress have to reverse the practice of keeping the husk and throwing the wheat if the party wants to see its political fortunes turn.
Choose your Battles: One reason for the middle class to drift away from congress is that it simply stopped caring about issues such as employment, jobs, corruption, law and order, economy, etc. that concern an average Indian the most. Even now, the dire strait of the economy and job loss in the post lockdown period is missing from Congress’s narrative. At the most one would see some tweets here and there but any public outreach or concrete groundwork is absent. Congress could have confronted the government’s mismanagement on handling the pandemic but that confrontation is mostly limited to social media.
Even on issues of national security, its leaders have seemed to have lost the common touch. There is also a perception among the predominantly Hindu middle class that Congress is not a party for them, it has a vote bank preference for the minority community. Congress’s stance seems more inclined towards a particular religious group that is not in coherence with the idea of secularism the party preaches.
Naturally, these perceptions do make a difference at the polling booth and the end result is that Congress is now staring at political irrelevance. Healthy democracy hinges on a capable opposition but opposition in India is anything but capable.