Rahul Gandhi, Congress president, made a serious offer to resign to his mother, Sonia Gandhi, after the “heavy” Modi wave blew away the Congress from India’s electoral land.
The above paragraph you read is currently the crux of the problem ailing the oldest political party in India - the culture of entitled heirloom politicians ruling the roost.
After all if Gandhi wants to quit after facing two defeats in a general election he can offer to resign to himself or his mother.
Nobody in the Congress party would dream of asking for accountability. And that is the second thing that ails the party.
In Narendra Modi’s “new India” made up of hustling aspirational young voters, a fifth generation dynast such as Gandhi is at a disadvantage. The Modi voters, and they are now pan India, are impatient and dismissive of dynasty.
The one uniform trend cutting across party lines is the downfall of dynasty. Jyotiraditya Scindia, the four-time Member of Parliament (MP) from Guna, lost his seat in a shock defeat by a huge margin of 150,000 voters. Vaibhav Gehlot, Ashok Gehlot’s son, lost his Jodhpur seat and so did dynasty progeny in other parties.
So what happens to the Congress next? Gandhi fought a very hard campaign and was the antithesis of Modi. But imagine fighting a general election that only gets you seven more seats than your worst-ever performance of 44 in 2014. And that too because you managed to piggyback on the DMK in Tamil Nadu and got nine seats.
I would hate to be in Gandhi’s boots. To be fair he fought a hard and gruelling campaign. But the BJP cleverly made it Modi versus Gandhi in a near presidential campaign and made feral attacks on Gandhi.
Modi even reversed Gandhi’s war cry of “Chowkidar chor hai” (the guard is a thief) and made it a matter of pride, prefixing chowkidar before his name. Modi was followed by his ministers, the BJP and even his supporters.
Gandhi’s campaign on the Rafale deal being corrupt never quite took off. And Priyanka Gandhi Vadra described as the Congress party’s “Brahmastra” (ultimate weapon) was deployed too late and made her look like a dud. Gandhi Vadra was the Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh - the party has been wiped out in her turf and beat. Even Gandhi lost his traditional seat Amethi to Smriti Irani.
The loss of Amethi is a huge loss of face for Gandhi and leaves the Congress with one seat in Uttar Pradesh. This is India’s bellwether state that sends 80 MPs to Parliament. If you don’t win Lucknow you cannot win Delhi.
So what next?
Gandhi’s offer to resign will be discussed at the Congress working committee meeting next week. But no Congress leader will agree to accepting it if Gandhi is himself firm about his resignation.
The compact the Congress has with the Gandhi’s is that the family wins them elections and they get the top job. The Gandhi family has not delivered their part of the covenant for years now.
Already a buzz has started, unbelievable even a couple of months ago, that Gandhi should quit. Two decisions have cost the party big - one to spurn Jaganmohan Reddy, who will now be Andhra Chief Minister after sweeping the state, and second, Gandhi insulting Hemant Sarma Biswa, who defected to the BJP, and is now Amit Shah’s main architect of the eastern sweep.
So if not Gandhi then who?
Why not Sachin Pilot? He is the only heirloom politician who has delivered. Pilot left Delhi, not even returning on weekends, as Rajasthan Congress chief and worked hard on the ground for five years. Pilot won the Assembly elections only to see Gehlot snatch the crown away for him.
Pilot is articulate, young and a real doer. He is even the right caste. Voters who see and admire Modi for being self-made have a lot of time for Pilot as they have seen him work hard.
Gandhi will have to persuade the party to let him go. And perhaps take his sibling with him. A party which has made worshiping dynasty its raison de etre will find it hard to let the Gandhis go.
Rajesh Pilot wanted to stand for election for the Congress president’s post. His son could be a good option to revive the Congress party. As currently, under the Gandhi siblings and mother, it is barely surviving.
But to be explicitly clear Gandhi will have to persuade the party to let him go. And perhaps take his sibling with him. A party which has made worshiping dynasty its raison de etre will find it hard to let the Gandhis go. A top Congress leader told me: “If the Gandhis withdraw, the contest leaders will rip each other into pieces. The Gandhis are the glue that hold the Congress together.”
The glue seems to be coming unstuck. Ironically, Gandhi is facing failure when he put his entire heart and soul into the campaign.