The grand old party of India, the Indian National Congress has been in mainstream Indian
politics for the past 135 years, almost twice the amount of time India has been independent.
While it did endure tumultuous political times, credit needs to be given that they did guide India’s social, economic, and political thought for almost half a century. But all of it is now mere history courtesy political hara-kiris they’ve done.
Recently enough is the Congress’s vocal opposition to Article 370’s abrogation, an event that
was celebrated throughout Indian states and political parties. This was a popular decision. Yet Rahul Gandhi’s short-sightedness and political appeasement made him oppose this. Kashmir gives 3 seats to the Lok Sabha, paltry at best. This popular decision that was opposed only in certain areas of south Kashmir became the center of 2019. Gandhi’s vocal opposition has only alienated him from the populace. A single ‘Rahul will reinstate 370 and de-integrate Kashmir’ call from the BJP is more than enough to alienate his fast deteriorating voter base.
Another hara-kiri was the political play that the Congress had during the Galwan stand-off. BJP has positioned itself as the champion of nationalism for all the valid reasons. At a time when the nation had to rally behind the army and the government, Rahul continued to alienate the masses who wanted moral support. While the entire opposition rallied behind Modi, the Congress continued to use it for political mileage. But what would annoy any Congress-person is the fact that it was another self-goal.
While the Congress continued to damage it’s credentials on nationalism, patriotism and military support, the eminent latency in their organisation continued especially with their obsession with the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Every other senior leader argues that the karyakartas want to see Rahul. Unfortunately for them, the karyakartas are not the voters and most karyakartas in the INC, which lacks a solid ideology to rally them, are simply obsessed with the dynasty.
More importantly the Congress has been fast moving to the left, a sight many would openly abhor in India. With the rise in income levels, fast paced urbanisation, and economic growth, India has moved to the right. India’s electorate very clearly understands that the congress’ argument to be the ‘guardians of secularism’, ‘supporters of India’s core values’ do not touch the chaiwala across. Rahul Gandhi’s obsession with abstract nonsense only destroys his credibility. Certainly most Indians do not see any open benefits of secularism, unless you are a woke lefty on twitter. That is again important, the INC is fast becoming a woke lefty party, something that the general electorate does not agree with.
But that brings us to the main question, can it revive itself? Yes, if they correct their mistakes. They have to start with holding the Gandhi’s accountable for delivering one election loss after another. It also means bringing up strong chief ministers at the state level to create models of development. Take Modi, and now Yogi and Himanta Biswa Sarma for example, these three leaders are strong chief ministers, they are not subservient to one family in Delhi. They choose their own cabinets, run their own schemes and certainly do not name it after that one family. They need to ask themselves, is Ashok Gehlot an inspiring CM or is Sachin Pilot? Is a 60-year old Kamal Nath an inspiring CM or is Scindia? Having puppets at the local level does not benefit the party, it only benefits the family. That tells me something else, remove the Gandhis. Bring fresh leadership and have strong CMs.
But also they need to acknowledge the growth that PV Narasimha Rao has achieved. He is one of the PMs who has been respected across the aisle, similar to Manmohan Singh. The Congress needs to be more assertive on the legacy of a man who delivered economic reforms than on that of a man who is widely credited to ‘giving away Kashmir’, a woman who is widely credited to ‘imposing an emergency.’ The Gandhi legacy is something that, believe it or not, is more negative than they can imagine.
Most importantly, move to the right. Woke lefties are not a significant chunk of any voter base in any country. Take the USA, 4% of their electorate identify as progressive (lefties) while 25% of their electorate openly are registered conservatives (republican party voters). This can be much lower in India. India has endured the falsities of socialism for too long to go back to it. They need to establish more nationalist and popular stances on social issues like Kashmir, forced conversions, population growth and acknowledge they have a minority appeasement problem. Indians won’t vote for you if you stand for things they don’t want or don’t believe in.
Rather than delivering sermons on abstract concepts like ‘empathy’, ‘upholding the core values of our country’, and the ‘Nehruvian legacy’, the Congress leadership must take a hands-on approach, criticising the government on the economic fronts, on the fronts of development, jobs, GDP, petrol prices. Calling Modi a fascist, a word half of the electorate perhaps doesn't even know how to pronounce and is far from what they care about. They care about next door problems like the economy. As Bill Clinton’s campaign once said - ‘It’s about the economy stupid!’
If you are someone who is to the left or even to the center-left, you have to understand the
country has moved too much to the right socially. Like it or not, you also must understand you are in the minority and have to agree that a democracy is about what people think is better for themselves and not what YOU think is better for them.