The Only ‘Surgery’ Congress Needs Is A Lobotomy; A Drastic Change At The Top

by R Jagannathan - May 23, 2016 12:36 PM +05:30 IST
The Only ‘Surgery’ Congress Needs Is A Lobotomy; A Drastic Change At The TopSonia and Rahul Gandhi
Snapshot
  • Introspection makes sense only when it is genuine, and there are no holy cows to protect.

    In the Congress, if introspection has to work, it cannot leave out the top leadership – especially the mother-son duo of Sonia and Rahul – out of the blame game.

    Indian political parties have made a joke out of the idea of introspection and surgery for the simple reason that they are not able to take a clear-headed view of what is good for the party.

    Does the Congress have a future? Yes, but this time the introspection must be done by real leaders and not dummy dynasts.

All parties promise introspection after tasting defeat in elections, and the Congress party has promised one this time too. Sonia Gandhi has been quoted as saying: “We will introspect into the reasons for our loss and will rededicate ourselves to the service of the people with greater vigour.”

Ho-hum. Don’t hold your breath for any movement on this front.

There are two problems here. Introspection makes sense only when it is genuine, and there are no holy cows to protect. In the Congress, if introspection has to work, it cannot leave out the top leadership – especially the mother-son duo of Sonia and Rahul – out of the blame game.

Some Congress politicians have spoken brave words, but without any meaning. Shashi Tharoor, the MP from Thiruvananthapuram, told a TV channel that his party must “move beyond this cliched introspection business into some serious action”. But he hesitated to specify what this action should include. So what he said means nothing.

Digvijaya Singh, another Congress politician who usually does not mince words, agreed that “We (have) done enough Introspection (and) shouldn’t we go for a major surgery?” This came via a tweet, but he did not specify which limb of the Congress needed surgery. That he did not mean the dynasty was amply clear when he refused to lay the blame for recent political defeats at their door.

Indian political parties have made a joke out of the idea of introspection and surgery for the simple reason that they are not able to take a clear-headed view of what is good for the party. Personalities seem to matter more than institutional strength. The old respect for authority survives, and whether it is a dynasty or a one-person party or a cadre-based one, we are reluctant to punish failure.

The CPI(M), after its disastrous failure in West Bengal in alliance with the Congress, will surely not sack Sitaram Yechury for this failure. Nor will the DMK do the same with Stalin or M Karunanidhi for giving the Congress 40 seats, when it could will barely a handful. The weakness of Congress candidates allowed the AIADMK to score wins where a DMK candidate may have done better. Giving those 40 seats to the PMK or DMDK would have ensured victory, but no one will pay for this foolishness, for, after all, the DMK is owned by one family.

Perhaps the only party that may actually change its leader if faced with regular defeats will be the BJP, which happily ousted LK Advani, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari from party presidentship when they could not deliver. If Modi leads the party to defeat in 2019, especially a humiliating one, the party will surely start murmurs about his capabilities. Remember, even before Modi rose to the top, the Advani and other camps were attempting a pre-emptive strike. It was support from below which helped Modi steamroll his rivals.

The simple law of politics is that leaders must pay for their failures. No British Labour or Conservative leader would survive a leadership challenge after a political defeat. In the US, parties seek winners to lead them rather than using popular leaders to produce wins. Despite the relative unpopularity of Donald Trump in the Republican party, having demonstrated the power of his political promise, the party is willy-nilly rallying around him. The party that once had contempt for him will now be seeking power hanging on to his coat-tails.

Indian parties have to move beyond their namby-pamby respect for authority and produce real winners. Political parties that do not show this element of ruthlessness to weed out failures will not grow.

The only surgery relevant to the Congress party is a lobotomy – a surgery at the top involving the removal of Sonia and Rahul from leadership positions. Their presence has cost many good politicians their jobs in the last two years. The mere ability to mouth one-line slogans (Suit-Boot Ki Sarkar) does not make them leaders. Leaders must lead, follow or get out of the way.

Does the Congress have a future? Yes, but this time the introspection must be done by real leaders and not dummy dynasts. If the Sharad Pawars, Vir Bhadra Singhs, Amarinder Singhs and Ashok Chavans decide that they need to create a new Congress party, and ally or merge with other former Congress leaders like Mamata Banerjee, we will have the makings of a new Congress party that can be a potential BJP-beater. This party needs to be run by a simple rule: an elected leader who can be ousted if he/she does not deliver. A Mamata-led unified Congress has a better future than a third front of disparate parties.

And yes, the Sonia-Rahul leadership is a liability for Congress and India. The best the duo can do for the party is to leave it to its own devices.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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