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Should Rahul Gandhi resign from the post of Congress President?
Karnataka election results shattered the dream of Rahul Gandhiji of becoming the Prime Minister. He has led the Congress party to one of its worst electoral defeats in recent times. Should he accept responsibility and resign from the post of Congress President? Let us examine some facts before coming to any conclusion.

Political achievements of Rahul Gandhi

Gandhi entered politics in 2004. He won from Amethi, a family bastion. He won again from the constituency in 2009 and 2014. Rahul Gandhi was elected Congress Vice-President in 2013. He led Congress' campaign in the 2014 general elections that ended with the Grand Old Party getting reduced to only 44 seats compared to 206 in the 2009 general elections. But that did not prevent him from taking over as the Congress President in 2017.

Rahul Gandhi campaigned during the 2012 UP Assembly elections for almost two months. He held over 200 rallies. However, the Congress won only 28 out of 403 seats and only two out of the 15 seats in the Amethi parliamentary constituency. The Congress lost Himachal Assembly elections in 2017 getting only 21 out of 60 seats. He led the Congress' campaign in Gujarat Assembly elections in 2018. The Congress won 57 seats out of 182. Furthermore, the party failed to win even a single seat in the Assembly elections of Tripura and Nagaland which were held in 2018. The Congress got only 21 out of 60 seats in Meghalaya and was shunted out of power. In Meghalaya, the BJP got only two seats, but the BJP-NPP alliance won 32 out of 60 seats and unseated the Congress. He put all his energy in the Karnataka elections but the result was a disaster. The Congress' seats in the Assembly dropped from 122 to 78 and the BJP formed the government.

Since Rahul Gandhi became the party's vice president in 2013 the Congress has lost 2014 general elections and nine state Assembly elections. Congress won three during this period. It won in Bihar in alliance with JD(U) and the RJD as the junior-most partner. It won in Punjab only because to the strategy of Captain Amarinder Singh.

Rahul Gandhi's performance in polls has been miserable. If he had not been born with a golden spoon into the Gandhi family, he would have been booted out a long time back.

Reasons for the decline of Congress

Practice of feudal democracy

As per Oxford English Dictionary, "feudalism" is a European social system in which people worked and fought for noblemen in return for land. That was the system in India where the kings and landlords (zamindars) were the equivalent of the European noblemen, the privileged class. Thus "Feudal Democracy" was government of the people, by the privileged for the privileged.

This was the system under which our first general election was held in 1952. Most of the candidates were from the Congress and from the privileged class. Most of the electorate was illiterate and looked upon the politicians with awe. The issue was not what the political leader would do for the people. The people were to pay obeisance to the political leader and the privileged class. The head of the family or the village elder decided who to vote for. The Congress won almost everywhere.

Times have changed. The level of education, political awareness, economic conditions and fear of authority among the electorate has changed. The people are no longer awed by the politicians. They demand essential services, favours and development and are quite prepared to throw out arrogant or non-performing leaders. Congress has been unable to accept this change in the attitude of the electorate and junior or grass-root leaders. Thus Rahul Gandhi feels that getting elected from Amethi is his divine right. He feels it is the duty of the people of Amethi to elect him. He may be in for a rude shock in the next election if SP and the BSP do not bail him out. Out of the 15 Assembly segments in Amethi parliamentary seat, only two are with the Congress. Rahul Gandhi has no time for the people of Amethi. Why would they vote for him?

A fallout of this feudal approach to elections is visible in the selection of candidates. Most of the candidates are selected from the privileged class. Local talent is generally ignored. Some senior politicians contest from two seats. Kin of senior politicians are given priority in selection. The senior politicians, who have annoyed their electorate by arrogance and neglect, are shifted to so called safe seats. It is only natural that they lose wherever they go. Thus the seats with the Congress dwindle with every election. The second fallout is that grass root leaders who are denied seats to make room for senior leaders contest as independent or join other political parties and make it difficult for the parachuted candidate to win.

Feudal approach also leads to formation of coteries. There is no accountability at any level. Thus, Jitender Singh, a close confidante of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi was made in-charge of Himachal Pradesh Assembly election. He made a hash of it and the Congress was thrashed. However, it did not deter Rahul Gandhi from making him in-charge of Odisha.

Feudal approach also leads to rule by Congress high command. The high command makes sure that popular, out spoken and rebellious politicians from the state do not become too powerful. Clashes between strong local leaders and the Congress High Command have resulted in splits in the party. Some instances are given in the succeeding paragraphs. Some more splits may be in the offing.

If the Congress is to survive in the competitive environment of today's politics, selection of leaders at all levels must be merit based and not dynasty based.

Decline of regional leadership

Many competent Congress leaders have quit the party over differences with the high command. The first to go was Mamata Banerjee in 1997. Ignored by senior leaders and the Congress high command, she quit and formed the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC). She ended 35-years of CPM rule in the state and become the CM. She has reduced the Congress to a fringe player in West Bengal.

Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma and Tarik Anwar opposed the elevation of Sonia Gandhi to the post of Congress President and prime ministerial candidate saying she was not native born. When this was not accepted they left the Congress to form the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in June 1999. This reduced Congress' strength in Maharashtra, Bihar and Meghalaya.

YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of the former Congress CM of Andhra Pradesh fell out with Congress high xommand and formed Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSR Congress Party) in March 2011. He has almost wiped out the Congress from Andhra. His party holds 67 out 175 seats in the Andhra Assembly. The Congress has none.

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) was founded on 27 April 2001 by K Chandrasekhar Rao with a single point agenda of creating a separate Telangana state with Hyderabad as its capital. Congress did finally grant statehood to Telangana but not gracefully. In the process it lost support of both Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and TRS. In the 2014 Assembly and general elections, TRS did not align with the NDA or UPA. It won 11 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats and 63 of the 119 Assembly seats.

Reluctance to form alliances

The BJP has core support of 30 to 40 per cent voters. Some are Islam phobists like my brother. Others are supporters of Hindutva. Some are sold Modiji's promises and GDP growth and see no alternative. So BJP will win in any multi cornered poll. Every political novices know that. But the Congress prefers to go alone with disastrous consequences. If the Congress had tied up with the JD(S) before the Karnataka elections, the BJP would have been restricted to 50 seats and the Congress would have been sitting on the treasury benches instead of protesting around Gandhi's statue. It refused to align with the SP and the BSP in UP by-elections. Both its candidate lost their deposit. Mamata Banerjee helped in getting Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi elected to the Rajya Sabha from West Bengal. The Congress responded by joining with the CPM to oppose TMC in Panchayat elections in West Bengal.

In 2004, the UPA had Congress plus 14 other parties as members with 334 MPs out of 543. But Congress' arrogance and inflexibility started an exodus. The TRS was the first party to quit the alliance in 2006. MDMK left in March 2007. The BSP left in 2008 after the Congress started opposing the BSP government in UP. The Left Front quit in July 2008 over Nuclear Treaty with the US. AIMIM of Andhra withdrew in November 2012 and the TMC in September 2012. Jharkhand Vikas Morcha quit in November 2012, the DMK quit in 2012 but rejoined in 2016. How can the Congress work against its allies in the states and expect them to support it at the Centre?

Why does the Congress behave the way it does? Rahul Gandhi himself let the secret out. He cannot be the Prime Minister unless Congress wins seats on its own. So defeating BJP is not a priority. Becoming PM is.

Conclusion

Rahul Gandhi reminds me of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zaffar. He was an emperor without an empire. He depended on the regional Satraps, the Scindhias, Peshwas and the Nawabs of Oudh and Bengal for his title and his pension. His mistake of joining the Sepoy Mutiny caused him to lose his empire. Rahul Gandhi's refusal to treat the regional Satraps with due respect and gratitude will finish Indian National Congress within 5 years.

Modiji wants a Congress free India. He does not have to try very hard. Rahul Gandhi is doing his best to achieve that aim. But regional Congress parties like NCP, TMC and YSR Congress will survive and flourish because they stand for socialism, secularism and federalism. As the main Congress party withers, more regional Congress parties may emerge in MP, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar and Assam.

Should Rahul Gandhi resign? If he wants to save the Congress he must and get a pro-opposition unity leader at the helm of Congress. Alternately, he must change himself to be a humble and accommodating partner and not the imperious PM in waiting. He must learn to respect the regional Satraps and their views. Change is possible. Robber Ratnakar became sage Valmiki and wrote Ramayana. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a UK educated suited booted Bar-at Law became Mahatma Gandhi, the naked fakir who led India's struggle for freedom. Modiji, the chaiwala, became the suited booted, world leader hugging, headline hogging PM of India. Let us watch what Rahul Gandhi does!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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