In Greek mythology, Tithonus was granted the boon of eternal life but not eternal youth. So, he grew old, older and oldest without exactly dying. Eventually he was transformed into a grasshopper.
Like Tithonus, the Congress Party may also have turned into a Grasshopper.
Despite Rahul Gandhi, 48, quitting 78 days ago as Congress President with the grand announcement that no one from the Nehru-Gandhi Family will lead the party, his mother, Sonia Gandhi, 73, was “unanimously” made “Interim President” of a comatose outfit she had resigned from only in December 2017, presumably on health grounds.
If performance in elections was a criterion for this mother-son-mother reversible succession in the 134-old Grand Old Party (GOP), Rahul excelled over his mother: under Sonia’s leadership, the Congress had won only 44 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 whereas Rahul delivered seven more in 2019, although he lost his own in Amethi (UP) but won in Wayanad (Kerala). Sonia, who ruled the Congress for 18 years, had left the party’s presidency after a string of party defeats in Assembly elections between 2014 and 2017, except Punjab, while Rahul delivered Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in December 2018. He tried to reignite the party’s morale, lost confidence and fighting spirit and cobble together new vote banks, including those of the Hindus, and promoted young leaders etc.
So, after a humiliating drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, why did he quit in May 2019 and stuck to his decision come what may? The party “respected” his determination but overturned his desire that no one from his First Family would don the hat. Even as “Interim President”, with the Congress announcing no time-line for any intra-party elections to elect the President, Sonia is likely to continue as the de facto chief indefinitely even as the rump party walks into Assembly polls in some states this year. Under her tutelage, the party’s Old Guard’s vice-like grip on the party, which Rahul despised, will continue unabated.
With her sham selection, the Old Guard of the INC, led by Ahmed Patel, has returned with a bang. Rahul had tried to rid the party from its stranglehold when he inducted youthful leaders in his team—Jyotiraditya Scindia, Deepender Hooda, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasad, Milind Deora etc—and attempted to restructure the termite-hollowed party. All his efforts have, however, been in vain as these leaders have been effectively sidelined, once again.
This is the difference between the BJP, which retired old leaders to the Margdarshak Mandal, and the Congress which ‘benched’ younsters to wait for their next role.
Clealy, the young leaders Rahul led are now frustrated lot, sitting on the fence, perhaps waiting for a call from the BJP to join the bandwagon: for instance, Scindia, Deora and Hooda openly supported the Modi Government’s historic move scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by virtually abolishing the Article 370 of the Constitution of India. In doing so, they clearly deviated from “party line”, which, in case, had put the party on a mat what with Congress Parliamentary Party leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhary completely messing it up in the Lok Sabha right in the presence of both Sonia and Rahul. Other leaders who deviated from the party line included Janardhan Dwivedi and Abhishek Manu Singhavi.
Some senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, 70, and P Chidambaram, 73, both Rajya Sabha MPs who can no longer win a Lok Sabha seat, are leaving no stone unturned in further embarrassing their own GOP and making it the national laughing stock.
Ever heard of any party’s chief whip choosing to quit and the join the rival party against which he was asked to issue a whip? But even this happened when Bhubaneshwar Kalita resigned as Congress Chief Whip and as an Assam MP, later joining the BJP on the J&K issue! Of course, we not counting those who, in a stream of defections, joining the BJP at regular intervals, so much so that a BJP Government returned in Karnataka.
Why this chaos in the party that ruled India for better part of its 72-year-long modern history since 1947? And why is the Old Guard so powerful so as to destroy the young leadership in its own party?
Its Big Business that politics has become over the years. A business without investment, with unthinkable profit margins, a dynastic continuance…all power and no responsibility.
The first generation of senior Congress leaders, led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, came to power straight from the Freedom Movement. To a large extent, they were rooted in the nation and the masses, seen as honest, well-meaning leaders. The second generation of party leadership emerged from a mix of the opportunist and corrupt dynasties of the first generation, led by Indira Gandhi, and the former feudal lords and maharajas whose privy purses were abolished in 1969. The third generation, led by Rajiv Gandhi, included whiz kids and technocrats, like Sam Pitroda, Arun Nehru and Arun Singh, who tried to make India tech-savvy and modernize. By the emergence of the fourth generation, led by Sonia Gandhi, the ‘dynastic principle’ had been extended to the states as well, and infested other parties as well. And we are not counting interregnums of the non-Congress Governments or even the Congress Government led by PV Narasimha Rao.
Rahul, perhaps, diagnosed this infantile ‘disease’ and tried to cure the party of the parasites of the Old Guard which managed and protected not only the party’s own dynasties but also those of other parties in a mutually-beneficial co-existence. Clearly, Rahuls’ enthusiasm threatened the very existence of this entrenched Old Guard; they plotted, they sabotaged and they tried to stop the Prince in his tracks. The coterie of Patel, who was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat in August 2017, ensured installation of Old Guard members Kamal Nath (71) and Ashok Gehlot (68) installed as Chief Ministers, ignoring young leaders like Scindia (48) and Pilot (41) who had played crucial role in reviving the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively.
But why is the Old Guard so keen on continuing its stranglehold on the Congress?
Reports suggest that their control of the Congress ensures their longevity in the political market where they continue to enjoy power and pelf, howsoever weakened now, without any responsibility whatsoever—all at the cost of their own party. But why are they so keen to remain in the reckoning, and media-friendly, instead of just enjoying their retired life?
Here is the crux: according to reports, they would remain in the news—of course claiming to be ‘sacrificing’ their life for the sake of democracy, liberalism, secularism etc.—to actually shield their vast empires of illicit money they had amassed through corruption during their long years in power. This they are doing through a stratagem: cultivating the news-hungry media and the disempowered NGOs and using social media for misinformation. According to a rough estimate, the Old Guards of various political parties—networked with each other—are sitting on a mountain of some Rs.4 to 5 lakh crore in black money.
In order to protect this mountain from a change in political climate, they would go to any extent, even drive a wedge between the Prince and His Mother and the Prince and the Princess.
This they have done in the first case on August 10.
Watch this space…