In Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, there is a scene in which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi addresses a session of the Indian National Congress after having recently returned from South Africa. He says:
“Here, we make speeches for each other, and those English liberal magazines that may grant us a few lines. But the people of India are untouched. Their politics are confined to bread and salt. Illiterate they may be, but they’re not blind.
“They see no reason to give their loyalty to rich and powerful men who simply want to take over the role of the British in the name of “freedom”. This Congress tells the world it represents India. My brothers, India is 700,000 villages, not a few hundred lawyers in Delhi and Bombay.
“Until we stand in the fields with the millions that toil each day under the hot sun, we will not represent India — nor will we ever be able to challenge the British as one nation.”
The Congress party today has begun to look like the one Gandhi found it in 1915 — and changed.
He did so by launching campaign after campaign. We can remember the names of the campaigns from our history books, from Champaran Satyagraha to Quit India.
When the Brahmastra imploded
During India’s last general elections in 2019, the then Congress president hastily announced that Priyanka Gandhi would run the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit, while she was in the United States. When she returned, Rahul Gandhi introduced her before the media in UP, saying she was going to work towards the 2022 assembly elections in the state.
That sounded like a way of admitting the Congress didn’t hope to do well in UP in 2019 itself. Sure enough, Rahul Gandhi lost his own seat of Amethi, overseen by Priyanka Gandhi. Come 2022, what has she achieved in UP? She has done worse than Rahul. The party won only 2 of 403 seats. Almost all Congress candidates — 387 to be precise, lost their security deposits, unable to win even 1/6th of the votes cast.
Priyanka Gandhi was long projected as the Congress party’s “Brahmastra”, the weapon in Hindu mythology that can destroy the universe. It may now be said the Brahmastra did not work either.
The sad truth about Priyanka Gandhi’s failure is that she didn’t even try. Episodic visits to UP, especially exploiting high-profile incidents of crime for easy photo-ops, were never going to revive the Congress party in UP. Priyanka Gandhi did the bare minimum to show that she’s doing something in UP, outsourcing the running of the state to a novice former student union leader.
Priyanka Gandhi cannot even afford to do well in politics, for that would mean overshadowing her brother Rahul Gandhi. A good sister cannot do that. Brother first, Party second, Nation third.
When was the last time Rahul Gandhi launched a mass agitation? That was the Rafale campaign in 2018-19. It flopped. He resigned from the post of party president. Now he acts as de facto president. If and when the party magically starts doing well, Gandhi family sycophants will give him the credit. He can no longer be given any blame since he is not party president.
The answers lie with the people
The party once led by Mahatma Gandhi today does not launch any mass campaigns or agitations, not even membership drives. It has no cause or purpose, time or inclination to go to the people and persuade them with.
Why does the Indian National Congress exist? What is its purpose, vision, its proposal for the progress of India? Its leaders spend no time answering these questions. They have only one goal: saving Rahul Gandhi from oblivion.
The answers to the Congress party’s problems won’t be found in the sycophants of the nominated Congress Working Committee demanding Rahul Gandhi be made party president as if he is not already running the party for all practical purposes.
The answers to the Congress party’s question lie with the people of India. Trouble is, Congress gave up on the masses long ago.
In the ten years of the Manmohan Singh-led Congress coalition, most ministers were from the indirectly elected upper house of the Parliament, starting with the Prime Minister himself. They were people who did not need to go door-to-door asking for votes. People? What people?
Let us elect a new people
Subtly or not so subtly, Rahul Gandhi and his acolytes dismiss north India, suggesting that the Congress hope lies in south India. The same south India where the Congress could not even win Kerala from the Communist Party, in an election which historically was their turn to win.
As for north India, the Congress has officially given up. North India, where most parliament seats are, where most direct BJP vs Congress contests take place.
Many Congress members privately and the party’s liberal supporters publicly say the Congress has been losing elections because the majority Hindu voter prefers the BJP’s Hindu nationalism to the Congress’s secularism.
Even if that is the case, what Mahatma Gandhi would have done is to go to the public and persuade it otherwise. Besides, why is Congress unable to even win states with high percentages of religious minorities, such as Goa, Punjab, Assam and Kerala?
The Congress no longer has faith in the act of persuading the masses. To misquote Bertolt Brecht, the people have lost faith in the Indian National Congress. Let us elect a new people (and let us do it before Rahul’s birthday in June when he must go to London for two weeks.)