Politics and leadership are about action rather than holding a position.
The new wave of politics which has emerged in the last six years desires three things: a perpetual necessity of the populist rhetoric, winning the war of perception and a strong trait of revisionism.
Laden with these traits, a leader and the respective party has a reasonable chance to increase their winnability quotient on the plank of both, the material or cultural politics. For instance, BJP has maintained its hegemony at the national level primarily on the plank of cultural politics wherein the material factors had been the sub-text. On the other hand, many regional parties or the regional satraps of Congress have scored an electoral victory against BJP’s by riding high on the wave of material politics. Thus, contemporary India presents a political scenario wherein the national political stage is witnessing the preponderance of BJP and cultural politics, while the regional scenario presents a heterogeneous and split scenario.
However, even at the regional level, one distinct trend that everyone witnesses are the political paralysis afflicting the Congress party/governments. This paralytic state emanates from their being captive to an outmoded conservative and lazy outlook which arises from a false sense of entitlement. Therein one assumes that the political field would remain still until they assess the situation and make their first move. A cursory glance at some recent events at the state level would suffice. Last month in Manipur, BJP’s led NEDA government faced a decisive blow on account of withdrawal of support by the allies. The regional Congress veteran and ex-C.M OkramIbobi Singh showed his political acumen to encash upon the crisis and brought the dissidents into its fold thereby bringing the incumbent government in minority for the time being. However, ultimately he lost the plot as the national leadership of BJP starting from Amit Shah to Ram Madhav and Himanta Biswa Sarma quickly resolved an aggravate crisis. Here, the national Congress leadership failed to act decisively and ultimately the regional leader felt abandoned. This is equally true about many other small north-eastern states like Meghalaya wherein BJP denied Congress the corridors of power despite later emerging as the single largest party. Hence, the central leadership of the grand old party is not only a failure at the national level but rather acts as a dead-weight against their own regional leaders. One hasn’t forgotten the 2017 episode in Goa wherein Congress lost the plot in spite of getting 17 seats out of 40 while BJP with just 13 seats formed the government. This was primarily on account of the sluggish and royal approach of the then state-in-charge Digvijay Singh who wasted precious time, while the BJP’s central leadership clinched the deal. This approach poses an existential threat to the party at a time when every regional political fortune is deeply tied to the interest and ability of the national leadership. Behind these political inactions lies the continuance of the old-guards’ patronizing attitude without having a corresponding mass base. Nevertheless, they acquire their prominence in the party by their unquestioned loyalty to the Gandhis who themselves are captive of the plot that they weave. This then necessarily pits the non-pliable and relatively young Congress leaders who are laden with spirit and command a credible mass base. The more the electoral prospect of the party dwindles, the worse has been the record of the inner-circle and Gandhis, to consistently alienate and humiliate the charismatic and capable younger leaders. The list is long. On account of the misplaced arrogance of the Gandhis and the inner circle, the party lost Andhra Pradesh beyond redemption when the self-entitled Gandhis rejected the entitlement of Jagan Reddy in the name of inner-party democracy. Today, Jagan Reddy rules Andhra Pradesh. In the same way, they made Himant Biswa Sarma join BJP, leading to Congress losing the plot in the entire North-East. Recently, it happened with Scindia in Madhya Pradesh, the only leader who has a pan-state appeal and under whose name the party fought and won the 2018 state election. Now, it is Sachin Pilot who is the latest manifestation. Given the arithmetic, the Congress government led by Gehlot would survive the crisis, but the malaise it points out is an indication of something deeper.
Today, the central leadership behaves like an agent of twitterati’s democracy. Therein they share a moral, not the political outrage as if both are one and the same. Forget about ameliorating the moribund state of the party in the Hindi-heartland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The party believes that Priyanka Gandhi could wrest the state from BJP merely on account of her resemblance to Indira Gandhi and infesting ranks and files of the party with left-wing cadres who are expert in making all the noises but proven illiterate in the art of reading the ground scenarios. The majority of them belong to the category who aren’t interested in ousting the Modi-regime. Rather, they cherish beholding the platform that gives them endless opportunities to vent their ideological anger against the ascendency of the right. In opposing Modi, they find spiritual satiation. Defeating BJP electorally isn’t as gratifying.
Politics is about the ability to manage the contradictions. In passively purging the party of the capable and non-pliable regional leadership, the party has forgotten its own past of being an umbrella party and representing a rainbow profile of the leadership. Why? Because the central leadership and the inner-circle are more interested in controlling the dwindling resources of the party and power than doing politics.
At a time when the majority of the electorate don’t want Gandhis to be their leader, insisting on the same and offering the argument that without them the party would collapse signify the clownish wisdom of the decadent feudal who believed that the march of democracy had threatened the social stability and without their enlightened leadership the society would collapse. It is high time, the party adapts to the new wave of politics that demands spirited and permanent investment on the ground and offers a profile of leaders with the capability and connect to the ground. However, for that, Gandhis and the inner circle needs to take a backseat as they signify the death of politics.
Dr. Sajjan Kumar is a Political Analyst. He is associated with People’s Pulse, a Hyderabad based research organization.