The Congress lost another bunch of elections today. What should worry the Congress more is that none of those defeats came as a surprise. Apart from one lone journalist in Assam no-one, not even Congressmen were expecting anything different. The reasons for this congress defeat are many, some that I may not be aware of. Some long-standing issues can be restated today. One of the simplest and likeliest explanation is that the party has aged, a 130-year-old, or for that matter, a 70-year-old political organisation is bound to get rusty to the extent that it may require a thorough deconstruction. This explanation does not solve the Congress’ problem today, further, it absolves its leadership of the blame for the state that Congress finds itself in.
Congress during Nehru was a party of principles. Driven by the man himself, the party took a principled stand on issues relating to the economy, society and foreign affairs. Many of those policies may be debated today, but those principles provided an identity to the party. A sharp decline was observed during Indira Gandhi’s time and by the end of Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure the Congress had reduced itself to a party making decisions based, at best on noise and worse on Delhi chatters. Some of those supporting Modi today, including Swamy and Tavleen Singh were close friends of Rajiv’s Congress.
Nehru had emphasised on social progress and took on regressive sections, especially in relation to the Hindu Code Bill but by the start of 1990s Congress was a party of contradictions and appeared like providing space to the bigotry of all. That during the Rajiv era the Congress became a compromising, unprincipled organisation, taking cues from the Delhi gossips haunts the Congress until today. The only reason why the Congress continued to do well in elections was because the opponents were terrible choices. (however much one praises Vajpayee one must remember he led a government which saw extreme farm distress,similar to the one today, and social unease).
That those who compare Akbar to Hitler, who condone murders for eating beef, and who have made a hobby of name-calling fellow Indians, were chosen over the Congress is a statement on the state of the party. That the BJP remains a rather unlikable party for many in the country is the reason the Congress may still surprise itself in 2019. Even if it does so, the present stupor is bound to bring it to an end sooner than later.
India is desperately looking for a party that can challenge the almost indecent behaviour of many in the BJP. To be of any relevance Congress needs to fight the battle for decency in the Indian society. I am extremely apprehensive about the society we will have to live in if this government and its supporters are vindicated by a general election victory in 2019. For the sake of decency, the Congress needs to take the challenge or give way to a viable challenger.