'Congress crisis more profound than leadership issues,' says political scientist Zoya Hasan

NewsDrum Desk
25 Nov 2022

New Delhi, Nov 25 (PTI) The crisis surrounding the Congress is not just about ineffective leadership or organisational atrophy but something "more profound", noted academic and political scientist Zoya Hasan said on Friday, adding that paradigmatic changes in the polity, economy, and society are contributing factors.

At a discussion on her new book 'Ideology and Organisation in Indian Politics: Polarisation and Growing Crisis of the Congress Party', Hasan said ideological ambiguity on key issues is a major problem.

While calling the ongoing 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' a good way to rebuild political capital and galvanise voters for the 2024 general elections, she said, "it could eventually revive Congress by stirring a push back against communal politics and the slide into authoritarianism." Hasan however added that while the Yatra provides a critique of the regime and the governance record, it does not provide a vision for the country which requires more substance.

"The decline of Congress needs to be read with the spectacular growth of its ideological other – the BJP. The success of the current regime derives from its ability to redirect Indian public discourse with a large number of voters viewing themselves through the prism of their overreaching religious identity," said Hasan.

She said the discourse moved from "material deprivation" to that of "victimhood of the majority community" which thinks it has been deprived of its rightful place in a Hindu country.

Hasan noted that the organisational crisis in the Congress has been aggravated by centralisation in the hands of top leaders, who lack ground level support.

"Without crafting a clear Opposition philosophy, Congress cannot mobilise ground support to counter identity politics," she said.

Talking about the "leadership crisis" in the party which did not have a full time president for almost three years after Rahul Gandhi's resignation, she said even as the election of a "non-Gandhi" (Mallilkarjun Kharge) to the post of Congress president is a significant change, it cannot resolve the deep rooted problems of the party.

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar however said that the post of president in the party has not always been the top leadership, and pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi was not a member of Congress for a long time, but still was the main face of the party.

"I doubt if Mallikarjun Kharge was leading Bharat Jodo Yatra, there would be as many people following," said Aiyar.

"Leadership is not related to the presidency of the party. Congress did elect its president and I'm afraid nothing changed," he said.

Aiyar also admitted that the Congress has several leaders who do not have ground level support.

"Congress is a set of barons with a king at the top," he said.

"There are people who have captured positions, they've captured it by avoiding elections, most of them are in Rajya Sabha... They are the ones who stopped Rajiv Gandhi, and then Sonia Gandhi from undertaking changes, and they are also stopping Rahul Gandhi from making changes," he said.

The veteran Congress leader opined that forging alliances is the way forward for the party for its revival.

"If we say, let all parties ready to oppose BJP come together, with no guarantees of who will be the Prime Minister, we leave it to the election outcome, there is a possibility that the two-thirds that did not vote for BJP will support," he said.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh's former advisor Harish Khare meanwhile said the Congress failed to understand that bad politics leads to bad governance, which leads to "communalisation." He credited Singh for the victory of Congress-led alliance in 2009, and said, "the biggest insecurity was at 10, Janpath." "Within two months of Sharm El Sheikh, the entire Congress turned its back on its own PM. Congress leaders were sabotaging the PM's agenda... Pranab Mukherjee - the number two man and AK Antony, who was the number three, became the biggest saboteur," he said.

"The crisis is entirely of family overload. Unless that is sorted out we will see the rise of the right wing unchallenged," he added. PTI AO VN VN

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