Courage, Congressmen, there's more to the party than Rahul

The party has secular and sensible talent like Shashi Tharoor, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, to name a few. They must take the plunge.



By Allan Jacob (Fine Print)

Published: Thu 10 Oct 2019, 10:34 PM

Last updated: Fri 11 Oct 2019, 12:36 AM

Indian Congress leader Rahul Gandhi simply 'walked away' and flew to Thailand. Veteran Salman Khurshid meant he took a long walk. I sensed a tinge of sadness, angst, even frustration in the Congressman's voice about the party leadership showing no stomach for a fight against a formidable organisation like the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rahul has left the building and the country when he should have given direction to the grand old Indian party that has now become a rudderless ship sailing into choppy electoral waters. Elections to the Maharashtra and Haryana state legislatures are scheduled for later this month but the Gandhi scion is cooling his heels in Thailand. So what if Rahul isn't the president of the Congress? I can understand his predicament after the drubbing in the elections in May. He wanted a break. But why now, and who so often? I am surprised at the lack of energy in the 'young' man - a 'youthful' leader pushing 50 when compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, at 69, is going places globally, burning aviation fuel and selling the India story. The PM is secure in the knowledge that there's no opposition back home with Rahul's mama Sonia in the saddle. Makes things easy for the winning political machine that the BJP has become.
Meanwhile, the other young guns of India's party of independence are failing to fire. They are in the shadow of the son, unwilling and wary of dethroning the dynasts who have shaped its dynamics. What's worse is that there is an abject lack of ideas to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party that is tightening its grip on the country's political and social culture. A battle of 'us' versus 'them' is being waged; about inclusion and exclusion, where a counter-culture is considered inimical to the country's interests and is anti-India. In this scenario, the Congress appears to be in a hurry to cede the middle ground, the balance the country of 1.3 billion needs, because being Indian is about being diverse and complex. And this complexity makes India complete and secure.
But by 'walking away' and leaving behind a 'vacuum', Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that he is uncomfortable slipping into the complex role the country demands of its leaders, where they have to be many things to different people. What riled me most were these lines by Khurshid, a former foreign minister, a principled politician and a man of character who said: "I did not want Rahul to resign. I wanted him to stay. I believe that workers wanted him to stay on and lead the party."
Which makes me wonder: Why Rahul, again? Let him take the path he has chosen. Why parrot those lines to every generation of the Gandhis. The people and party workers have grown tired of the routine. The Congress, having perfected the art of sycophancy, finds it hard to let them go even during this existential crisis.
The party has not woken up to the fact that the country is bigger than the family it worships. The son has thrown in the towel and has shown little spunk for a long, messy career in politics. When will he learn?
When will Congress leaders learn from the failures of the family? The party has secular and sensible talent like Shashi Tharoor, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot. Khurshid is a strong contender, too. They must take the plunge and fight for democracy in the party before countering the BJP. There's little power in mass cowardice. So courage, Congressmen!
- allan@khaleejtimes.com


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