Rahul Gandhi may have possibly driven the last nail in the Congress party’s coffin with his remark during a speech last week that India’s youth will attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi with sticks if he fails to resolve the unemployment crisis. This was a reprehensible statement – almost as low as those made by some Bharatiya Janata Party luminaries in the run-up to the Delhi elections. More importantly, it was a reckless remark that is bound to tarnish the Congress’s image as a responsible political party.
In the light of the party’s abysmal performance in the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections, this statement could even be considered to have irreparably damaged its national ambitions. Rahul Gandhi’s mother, Sonia, led the party to an unprecedented defeat in the national elections in 2014. Rahul Gandhi did the same in 2019. The only thing that saved the party from an even worse outcome was the performance of the party’s Punjab and Kerala units, no thanks to Rahul Gandhi, and the fact that it bagged several seats in Tamil Nadu by hanging on to the coat-tails of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
A terrible liability
Rahul Gandhi’s lack of charisma, imagination and organising capabilities when combined with his repeated faux pas have clearly made him a liability for the Congress. These qualities, combined with an aversion to the dynasty’s control of the party, have turned off many potential voters. The dynasty, more particularly Rahul Gandhi, have now become very potent sticks for the BJP to beat the Congress with.
It is now obvious that when Modi refers to Rahul Gandhi’s statements, he does not refer to the Congress MP by name. This is a deliberate attempt to convey to the public the low esteem in which Modi holds Gandhi – and by implication the dynasty. Gandhi’s consistently uninspiring and counterproductive statements play into Modi’s hands.
The Congress’s decision to persevere with the dynasty is a reflection of the party leadership’s sycophantic culture and lack of political imagination. Replacing Rahul Gandhi with Sonia Gandhi and now, as rumours have it, bringing back Rahul Gandhi as president of the party provides fodder for satire. It is time that the party leadership decides to remove the dynasty from power.
However, such an action would require the reinstatement of inner party democracy in the party and a total overhaul of the unelected and unelectable members of the Congress Working Committee. This appears to be a tall order at the moment but it is the only way to resuscitate India’s Grand Old Party.
Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Michigan State University.