In their historic meeting before independence, Mohandas Gandhi asked Sree Narayana Guru, “Will we gain freedom?” To this, Guru replied, “Yes, we will gain freedom, but considering the magnitude of the enslavement, Mahatma ji has to be reborn to give us the freedom.”
This can be read as his predictive insight towards post-independence fallacy of Indian National Congress when it failed to undertake the project of decolonization seriously.
Political conversion of leaders from Congress to BJP who once adorned powerful positions is perceived as one of the biggest challenges encountered by Congress in the current Indian context. In fact, Congress should perceive it positively. When India became politically independent, the people who possessed socio-economic power at that time used Congress to maintain and re-establish their power through political means; they will naturally take deviations to structures which can give them power. It is that political class which filtered politics out of Congress and made it a power maintaining structure. In that sense, Congress is presented with a political opportunity to get back to the vehicle that leads to India’s liberation, one which it missed out in the past.
Modi wave which hit India by 2014 is yet to see a downfall. NDA has returned to power with more seats and votes than it gained in 2014. Party in power could expand its presence and dominance to more Indian states. Congress, which is the major opposition could only gain eight more seats, and Congress-led UPA could only add 31 to its tally. Aam Aadmi Party, which once expected to rise as a national alternative, couldn’t save its deposit money in more than half of the seats it contested in its stronghold. TMC which had won 34 seats in 2014 was restricted to 22. Major Left parties which ruled Bengal and Tripura for decades lost its lion-share of traditional votes to BJP in those states. BSP-SP alliance in UP also couldn’t make a predicted impact. DMK, YSR Congress and JDU could improve their positions.
Even though things are like this currently, primary responses in the context of 2019 Lok Sabha results are hinting that from intellectuals like Yogendra Yadav, who propagated to vote for NOTA in Delhi where a triangular fight happened, to the leaders of different parties who were humiliated in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, all seem to be joining with NDA as undeclared allies to meet their declared goal of ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’.
The simple truth is that nobody could have kept a party which gained 43% of votes away from power. Nobody can move forward if they forget the primary responsibility, which is to be humble to the verdict of the people. It is the time when observations are being shared regarding the setback suffered by Congress. Such discussions shouldn’t be restricted to PR strategies or individual charisma.
Even though India has benefited from the new economic policy implemented by Congress in the 1990s, we can’t begin the search for an alternative paradigm of progress without considering its grave impacts on people from different sections of society. Introspection is the first step to take. Unlike some of the other political streams, Congress is not a closed cadre system which already has an ultimate truth into which it moves forward; this offers Congress a scope for correction and reform.
The number of farmers who committed suicide after two decades of new economic policy is in lakhs. Apart from loan waiving, there should be a comprehensive policy to address this issue. Without limiting their interventions to the plights of middle-class landowners, the party should be concerned about the problems of working-class in the farming community. Congress should have active unions or organizations to deal with the issues of workers and people who engage in meat trade and other small-scale industries. It should engage in their problems and day-to-day lives with a vision which is beyond regaining of power
We can’t deal with the ‘Gaurakshaks’ unless we are ready to address an economic layer which is attached to it. When Indian universities are going through a phase of ‘Saffronization’, the responsibility of resistance is not exclusively shared by Leftists and Ambedkarites. Student organizations like NSUI also have a significant role to play. If Congress can’t understand and deal with the fact why no one from NSUI is emerging to the space shared by a Kanhaiyya or Shehla Rashid, it will remain as opposition only in its technical sense. The ‘NYAY‘ which it had in its election manifesto has to be there inside the organization and candidature list.
Of the 21 constituencies of Odisha, BJD allotted seven for women, six of them had won with two of them were from Scheduled Tribes and one from Scheduled Caste. If we check the list of the 22 winning candidates of Trinamool Congress, 15 are women. All this adds to the disappointment when we prick the thought that even in Kerala, the party neglected the idea of gender equality in seat allocation.
Congress should empower marginalized groups which lack bargaining capacity in parliamentary democracy unlike other powerful communities and make them and their cause visible in mainstream politics. It should also design a parallel model to mobilize fund for its functioning. Independence of an organization will be incomplete without that. It is high time to have a working model of self-reliance.
Congress should also address issues like land redistribution, which it couldn’t take up in the past due to its limitations and contemporary challenges like environmental concerns. It can’t afford to forget the shameful episode of scandals and corruptions as well, which made people of India vote against them. Congress which tries to regain political power without reviving its politics will be evolved into an elite English-speaking Indian middle-class club, as Gandhi once identified it in the early 1920s.
Amidst all these suggestions, let us not discard the political approach initiated by Rahul Gandhi. He succeeded in making an alternate political model of discourse that emphasizes the idea of truth and respect in this present post-truth era of fascism and violence. The future endeavours of the party, including the activities in cyberspace, should rest upon this new culture put forward by him. It is affordable for congress if Rahul discontinues as President, but it can’t afford to lose his methodology as a leader.