CWC Meet and Congress Crisis : Should the Gandhi Family let go off the deteriorating Congress?
The Gandhi family has been in control of the Congress party (and versions) for nearly 50 years now.
The latest survey results from CVoter are here. The Gandhi led opposition is in a complete mess! What we will do is analyse in brief the performance of the Congress party in the last 20 years under Sonia and Rahul and the choices ahead.
Congress Crisis: Kapil Sibal Furious – Gulam Nabi Azad Rejects Rahul Gandhi’s Allegation of Leaders Colluding with BJP
Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, is holding a virtual meeting today. The meeting has been initiated amid a letter sent by around 23 senior Congress leaders to have a none Gandhi President of Congress.
Ghulam Nabi Azad senior Congress offered to resign as he defended the letter. He said, “Will Resign If Found With BJP.” Rahul Gandhi had questioned the timing of letter and said that it was sent after colluding with BJP.
The key meeting of the Working Committee began here amid divisions in the party over the leadership issue. The party is stands divided on the leadership matter with a faction calling for collective leadership and another reposing faith in the Gandhi family.
Congress performance under the Gandhi Family Since 1998
In the last 22 years that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been party presidents, the party went down from winning 25.8% of the vote in 1998 to 19.7% last year. During this period, the party was completely wiped out in many States
- In 1998, Combined AP, Congress won 38% of the vote, In 2019 Congress won 11.8% of the vote when the votes of both Telangana and Andhra are combined
- In 1998 in Maharashtra, Congress won 44% of vote, In 2019, Congress won 16% of the vote.
- In 1998 in Odisha, Congress won 41% of vote, In 2019, Congress won 14% of the vote.
- In 1998 in Bengal, Congress won 15% of vote, In 2019, Congress won 5.7% of the vote.
- In 1998 in Delhi, Congress won 43% of vote, In 2019, Congress won 23% of the vote.
The above 5 States together have 147 seats, Congress won jut 7 seats here in 2019. In 1998, Congress won 58 out of its 141 seats from these States. But things were not this bad. As recently as 2009, the party would have appeared to be in better shape – Higher Vote share than 1998 at 28.5% and 69 Seats which was also higher than 1998.
So what has changed for the Congress party?
Apart from strategic errors in Andhra Pradesh, the real change for the Congress is not that Sonia and Rahul have gotten worse since 2009, it is that the quality of opposition has improved manifold. Narendra Modi with his Pan India appeal and tremendous background has absolutely hammered the Congress party across the country.
So while it is fair to say that the Sonia led congress did a good job against the competitors until 2009, they are no match to Narendra Modi. The fact also is that at least 1-2 next line of BJP leaders will also be more than a match for Sonia and Rahul.
The biggest IF is, we don’t know what would have happened to the Congress party in 1997 if Sonia had not taken over the Congress. Would one formidable leader have overcome all challenges and become President? Or would the party have splintered like TMC did in late 1997 and become regional across the country? Both scenarios are plausible.
That said, the reality today is that even if Narendra Modi botches up, the Congress would end up with less than 100 seats given its diminishing strength in the above 5 States. The main reason being the perceived gap between Modi and Rahul is so huge that Voters will probably not just turn up to vote instead of voting for the Congress.
In simple words, the current Gandhi Family strategy is not working since 2014 and is unlikely to unless the strategy is changed
Why doesn’t the Gandhi Family let go off the Congress Party?
There are three possible reasons and everyone might find some merit in each one of them
- An assessment that they personally will be worse off
- An assessment that the party will be worse off
- An assessment that the Country will be worse off if they do
But the reality is, the Gandhi Family has limited say on their own State units. While this was always a problem, it has gotten worse with the party’s performance weakening over the last 10 years. The frequent defections are evidence for this. Personally, with the raft of cases, the Gandhi Family is in no better shape.
Therefore, Looking at every single metric, it is unlikely that the Congress party will be able to recover soon. In fact, it is likely that the Gandhis will continue to find themselves even more marginalised as the BJP tightens its hold over the Country. So the big decision for the Gandhis is, are they willing to take a risk and let some other Congress leader drive the party agenda?
A New Face
Some may find this offensive but Founders and Family run businesses often deal with this dilemma. Many have attempted this transition without success but many others have succeeded. The Congress party needs a new face who can reconnect with millions of voters who have rejected the Congress party because of the Gandhis. Someone who can connect not just with SC/ST, Minority and Liberal voters but also with the biggest voting block of OBC Voters where the Congress trails BJP by about 40% points (It is just 13% amongst Dalits).
The current situation suggests that the Gandhis will have to take this risk. There is frankly no choice for the Congress party!
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