The Congress’ struggle for existence continues, with its current leadership both absolutely confused and demoralised after the party’s humiliating defeat in the recent Parliamentary polls. Given that Rahul Gandhi is adamant on quitting, and rightly so, Congress leaders have been attempting to put up a brave face, although they seem to have no solution to the current developing situation.

It was merely a coincidence that on 12 June Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra landed in Rae Bareli to thank the voters, perhaps not realising that it was on this day in 1975 that Indira Gandhi was unseated from this constituency by the Allahabad High Court. The court verdict, delivered by Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha, on a petition filed by firebrand socialist leader Raj Narain, proved to be the catalyst for the declaration of the Emergency on 26 June. The rest is history.

However on 12 June, Priyanka took the political circles by surprise when she chose to admonish Congress workers in Rae Bareli, and claimed that Sonia Gandhi had won from there primarily because of her own image, and due to the support she received from the people. She informed the gathering that she would inquire why workers had failed to perform satisfactorily in order to hold them accountable for their minimal contribution.

Her aggressive speech evoked a strong reaction from partymen, who demanded to know why she was trying to shield herself from criticism since she was the general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, and thus could not absolve herself of being liable pertaining to the party’s woeful performance. She was directly accountable for Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s defeat from Amethi, as she had for the past 20 years been nurturing both Rae Bareli and Amethi. Therefore to shift the focus on the workers, particularly when the leadership had done little to strengthen the organisation in both UP and the rest of the country was grossly unfair.

On the same day, back in Delhi, the core committee of the Congress, presided over by A.K. Antony, met to review the current political situation, at the end of which, chief spokesman, Randeep Surjewala, asserted that Rahul Gandhi would remain the president, though no indication of this nature had come in from any of the senior leaders. The core committee only went through the motions without reaching any tangible conclusions, primarily because its members are completely disconnected from the grassroots. An overwhelming majority of members are incapable of even getting a single MLA elected from their area, and thus do not inspire confidence. The drama of the key group meeting was enacted to give an impression that intense introspection was taking place, while the reality is that little has changed within the party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi often refers to the Lutyens’ Cabal while lashing out at his critics. His assessment is that there are many people who have prospered by having allegiance to the Lutyens’ club, by virtue of being power brokers or sycophants and therefore not on the basis of merit. The Congress presents itself as a fit case where many of its leaders have consolidated their positions, financially, politically and in every manner, merely through their proximity to the ruling elite of one time. As a matter of fact, during the UPA regime, several power brokers and fixers also rose to become political leaders since they wielded immense financial strength, gathered over a period of time, by negotiating deals. Not that such liaison persons have not thrived during the earlier NDA regime and even during the last government but their number was greatly reduced.

The short point is, that the Congress party’s new leadership has to free itself of deadwood, who have flourished merely because the former president Sonia Gandhi believed in status-quo and so retained the same people throughout her nearly 20-year stint. This Lutyens’ brigade must be now ordered to move back to their respective states and work there itself. They should come to Delhi only when they are beckoned or have legitimate reasons to be in the capital. To begin with, once they have exited, the conspiracies they hatch to keep upcoming state leaders out would also minimise.

The Congress has essentially suffered because it has not allowed state satraps to have their say in strengthening the organisation. Last week, a photograph of Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had been divested of some portfolios by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, was circulated where he was seen standing next to Rahul, Priyanka and Sonia’s Man Friday, Ahmed Patel. While it is clear that the snapshot was put into public domain by Sidhu, yet who provided him with the picture is the moot question. Knowing that Amarinder would have been least impressed with “this show of strength”, High Command or No High Command, what was the intent behind this act? The only evident inference was that Sonia was in control through her most trusted aide.

Without mincing words, Rahul has made a strong case for a non-Gandhi to be the Congress president. Recently Lalu Prasad Yadav stated that even if this was done, the BJP would attack the successor as being a Gandhi puppet. Most senior leaders must return to their respective states, thus allowing the new president to choose his own team. Concurrently, the Congress must comprehend that the majority of its 52 MPs would not have been elected without Muslim support. The future strategy should take this factor into account. Between us.

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