Rahul Gandhi’s resignation that he offered to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) has managed to keep everyone on their toes about the future of the party. Not that the existence of the party is at stake or anything, but this event might result in a turning point for the Congress party. I think it was brave of the CWC to announce that his plea to resign was rejected, however, there seems to be more than meets the eye. Rahul Gandhi on Monday appeared firm on his decision to step down as Congress president. He is said to have told the party he will continue until a suitable successor is found. Some in the party interpreted this as a sign that he may relent. Others said finding a successor is not easy given the sense of deep distrust among senior leaders.
The working of the Congress party wasn’t actually perfect and the growing nepotism within the party was more than evident. Indeed, Rahul Gandhi’ resignation is a sign that the party is moving away from its current dependency on the Gandhi family. Voters are persuaded in the name of the Nehru-Gandhi ancestors and they literally run the party. This situation is causing nothing to the party but harm. What might actually help the party is an effort to bring in the talent of young leaders and the experience of the senior leaders at the right place and at the right time.
I believe that Rahul Gandhi presenting his resignation to the CWC and asking the body to look for alternatives outside the Gandhi family speaks volumes. A non-Gandhi leadership looks like an ideal starting point of this endeavour.
The “don’t quit” chorus seems to be rising as it gets clearer that there is no looking back for Rahul Gandhi. Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad termed Rahul Gandhi’s proposal to resign as Congress chief suicidal and said it would amount to “falling into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s trap”. This makes us question if it is actually the party that needs the Gandhi family. Are they the only uniting factor left in the “grand old party”? Powerful leadership is essential for any political party, but, what is also an important prerequisite is a common ideology. The members need to agree on some common goals and aspirations to make the organisation work. What Congress really needs is a clear vision to be able to look beyond the ossified elites. It is time the Congress party stood for a political idea rather than a family.
Congress is not merely some political organisation, it is the second largest party in the parliament and represents the people who have not voted for them in the government. The party, therefore, must strive to accommodate the diversity and aspirations of the people of India. The internal crises must not deflect the MPs of the party from their duties towards the people. In this case, the post of the party president as well as the leader of the opposition, hold great importance. We can say that it was not very mature of Rahul Gandhi to step down within 48 hours of the election results. He did not propose any alternative plan for the party to pursue and obviously had no time to look into what went wrong. Although, he must be given some credit for attacking nepotism in the party by rebuking senior members like Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath for favouring their sons over the party’s cause.
Rahul Gandhi’s resignation will not solve the Congress’s problems directly but it could be the first step towards democratising the party internally; which is something that the Congress president once promised to. It could start holding elections for the next Congress president, a post that has been held by a Gandhi since 1998, giving party workers at the village and block level a say in choosing who will lead them. What also must be kept in mind is that the onus of failure in the elections must not be solely put on a single individual. His decision to step down must not be seen in the narrow light of Modi’s win but in the context of a broader scheme of things. Therefore, Congress has no reason to sit and wait as the reinventing will not happen in a day. In the words of Shashi Tharoor, “The Congress has no time to sit and lick its wounds as it must immediately pick itself up for the upcoming state elections.”