Indian National Congress can be thought of as a senior citizen who has a terminal illness but refuses to accept it. They simply refuse to acknowledge the illness. Therefore, it is only rational that we talk about the birth of it, then about its glorious era to finally how it ended up on a hospital bed. It was a party that led the freedom struggle against one of the most powerful empires in the world. It was a party which inspired anti-colonial movements all over the world.Ho Chi Minh famously said, “I and others may be revolutionaries but we are disciples of Mahatma Gandhi, directly or indirectly, nothing more, nothing less.”
In the early stages, it was more of an elite debating club for educated intelligent Indian males for about 20 years until 1905. It was a loyalist collaborationist body which was loyal to the empire and all it asked for was more Indian participation in the bureaucracy and judiciary. In its nascent stage, its aims were limited but ambitions were not. After 1905, these urban males turned anti-colonial which triggered with the Swadeshi Movement of 1905. The problem with congress was that it consisted mainly of urban educated High Caste Hindus and it was still to penetrate into the countryside and villages of India. The recitation of Hindu Epics and felicitation of India as Mother India or Bharat Mata was common in Congress meetings, which alienated the Muslims and Congress was widely perceived as a Hindu party. This was one of the major reasons behind the formation of The Muslim League in 1906.
1919 was the onset of Gandhian Congress phase and soon Congress started getting recognized as a nationwide organization with mass leaders. From 1919 till about 1945, Mahatma Gandhi remained the key leader of the Indian National Congress. 1919 was the year of Gandhi’s first All India Protest against the Rowlatt Act. The Jallianwallah Bagh tragedy also took place in the same year. Then Gandhi initiated a flurry of movements most prominent ones being the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement.
India gained its independence on the 15th of August 1947, however it came at a price. Partition was a major failure of the Gandhian Congress that fought for an undivided independent nation. Post Independence India was the generation of Patel and Nehru. While Nehru became the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Patel became his Home Minister. Robust state Congress units came into existence. Congress had mass leaders at every level. During the 1960s, Some Chief Ministers of major states were people like K Kamaraj in Tamil Nadu, BC Roy in Bengal and many more. There were active district, state and national committees which were truly democratic in their functioning. The first stage of the illness started back in 1969 when the democratic party Indian National Congress became a family fief and gave up the very democratic principles it stood for since its inception. It started when Indira Gandhi inherited the PM Chair and weakened the various institutions of the Nation. Her control over the Party was firm and brutal and she didn’t leave a single stone unturned to cut her opponents to size.
For almost half a century now, a single family has dominated the party (barring a small period after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and Sonia Gandhi was still to enter politics).
In the Indian general election of 1984, Rajiv Gandhi won a record breaking 404 seats in a 533-seat parliament after Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Currently the party has 44 seats in the assembly. It was decimated in the key states of UP and Bihar. It has been out of power in West Bengal for 40 years. They have been out of power for more than 2 decades in Mahatma Gandhi’s state.
After general elections of 2014, The Congress could win only two out of 18 states, Punjab and Puducherry. The only state in the list of the ten most populated states in the country where the Congress is in power is Karnataka. These are the signs of impending doom and it doesn’t look likely that Congress will continue to exist in its current form after 2019 Elections.
Let us analyze why it is difficult for Congress to survive after 2019.
1) Absence of Mass Leaders
The Indian National Congress has steadily declined at the national level and has now collapsed at the state levels as well. This is a steady irreversible decline of the Congress party. It has been 70 years since independence and the aura of Congress being a party of freedom fighter has completely evaporated. The current generation equates Congress with nepotism, corruption, and cronyism. Congress is leaderless. They either have backroom intellectuals who lack mass connect or frontend motormouths like Manish Tewari, Digvijay Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar (now suspended). And to top it all, they are led by Rahul Gandhi who has more gaffes to his credit than any real achievements. BJP, Congress’ main opponent on the other hand has many leaders of repute and they are led by possibly the best orator-prime minister ever, Narendra Modi. INC’s young team is again a bunch of dynasts like Scindia, Pilot and Deora. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is probably the only mass leader that Congress has but Amarinder has as much to do with Congress Party, as Shatrughan Sinha as to do with the BJP.
2) Complete Disconnect with Hindu Voters
In its efforts to be seen as a pro-minority party, the Congress cut its ties completely from the Hindu Voters. Until recently, Congress party made no efforts to reach out to the Hindu electorate. Hindu voters unified as solid vote base under Prime Minister Modi. Hindu vote base doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and this is the single biggest reason why Congress will cease to exist in its current form after 2019.
3) No Congress without Gandhi, No Win with a Gandhi at the helm
As explained earlier in the article, the major reason for INC reaching terminal illness stage was because it played dynasty politics for far too long. They have played the game for so long that There is no question of a Congress without Gandhi. Nehru had the aura of a freedom fighter, Indira Gandhi was the daughter of a Freedom fighter and first strong woman in Indian Politics, Rajiv Gandhi was the son a martyr, Sonia Gandhi was the widow of a martyr, but Rahul Gandhi has no such advantage now. Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination is a forgotten chapter.
The great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru who was also the undeclared PM Candidate of the INC in 2014 is now the president of the party and has proved beyond any doubt that there is no chance of Congress winning a free and fair election with him leading them. Congress has lost more than 20 Elections with him in the lead. And thinking of anyone else being the Congress PM Candidate in 2019 is ‘Sacrilege’.
4) INC Now plays Second fiddle to Local Leaders and Regional parties
In Bihar elections, Congress was happy being a junior party with RJD and JDU taking the active lead. In West Bengal, they played second fiddle to CPI(M) ( Alliance) to corner TMC. In Uttar Pradesh, they played second fiddle to Samajwadi Party. A so called national party that needs local parties to stay in existence is no national party.
A party which had 206 seats in the Lok Sabha about 3 and a half years back, has been reduced to moral victories. This signals the beginning of the end of Congress.
Bharat Ratna, Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee warned the INC in a speech in 1997, he said,” Mark my words. Today, you people(Congress)are laughing at us for having less MP/ MLA.But the day will come when we will have our Government all over India with the highest number of MPs/MLAs.That day, this country will laugh at you and make fun of you.”
It’s curtains for INC. A drubbing in the next general election will trigger factionalism in the INC and the party of Gandhi and Nehru will cease to exist in its current form after 2019.