After facing a humiliating defeat in the 2019 general elections the Congress camp is yet to recover from the jolt. Dissent and leadership crisis has plagued the grand old party which added a few seats to its total of 44 in 2014 general elections to arrive at dismal 52 in 2019; however, the margin of victory has been considerably reduced. Tall leaders like Mallikarjuna Kharge, Jyotiraditya Scindia even Rahul Gandhi have lost from erstwhile strongholds of the Congress.
What followed the defeat was the resignation of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, however, Congress’ Central Working Committee had out rightly rejected his resignation. Filled with Gandhi loyalists’ this move by Congress’ CWC is surely not a surprise to anyone. Dragging the resignation drama for over a month after the electoral results, the whole scenario puts out serious doubts over the management of the crisis by Congress leadership.
After his resignation, Rahul Gandhi had recently said that no one is taking responsibility for the defeat. Following this call, a flurry of mass resignations of Congress leaders has followed citing ‘respect and honor for Rahul ji’. Around 120 Congress leaders have already signed a letter, which set in motion a campaign of voluntary resignations including Telangana in-charge Poonam Prabhakar, Bihar in-charge Virendra Rathore, Youth Congress Vice-President Srinivas, Delhi Congress Working President Rajesh Lilothia and Anil Chowdhary, Madhya Pradesh in-charge Deepak Babaria and Goa in-charge Girish Chowdhankar. Calls for the resignation of CM’s of the Congress-ruled states have also been made within the party.
These resignations, coming more than a month after the electoral defeat raises sharp questions on the intent. Congress has been infamous for orchestrating similar charades to fulfill ulterior motives and these mass resignations only seem to be a part of that strategy. Comments of many senior leaders of the Congress give winds to this notion that Congress might use these resignations as a pretext to build support for Rahul Gandhi, citing his indispensability for the survival of Congress.
Pratap Singh Bajwa, who also resigned from the post of vice chairman of the Congress’s foreign affairs department wrote, “These resignations will help strengthen Rahul Gandhi’s hand and give him free rein to make the systemic changes he has envisioned. I believe that any leader who does not resign has put their personal gain over the party’s collective growth.”
“After the poll debacle, many state units are already conducting a post-mortem. At least some work is going on. Chief Ministers resigning will destabilize governments in Congress-ruled states…What does it achieve?” a senior leader, not willing to be named, told India today.
Many political observers have pointed out that Rahul Gandhi might assume a higher ‘ideological’ position. Rasheed Kidwai writes “Rahul Gandhi is set to get a leadership role in the mould of an ideologue or a supreme leader without holding an office.”
While the turmoil continues, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra seems to be at a favorable position to emerge as the PM candidate for the Congress in 2024 elections. However for Congress filling the void after these high-level resignations will surely be an uphill task, especially finding a suitable candidate for Congress President’s post. Recent media reports had also suggested that Ashok Gehlot might emerge as the favourite choice. Speculations are also ripe that, Ashok Gehlot’s move to the central party leadership might place Rajasthan Dy CM Sachin Pilot in a favorable position to take over the CM’s post in the state. The names of Anand Sharma, Mallikarjun Kharge, and even Jyotiraditya Scindia are part of the whirlwind of speculations.
Nonetheless, the debate over getting young leaders at the top post might turn tables for the new faces. In this whole scheme of affairs, the inherent nature of Congress party to keep the power concentrated in the hands of the Gandhi-Nehru-Vadra family seems evident, however, it remains to be seen how Congress steers itself through this internal political drama.