What's gone wrong with the Congress? My answer is: nothing! Absolutely nothing new has gone wrong with the Congress Party. If there was anything wrong, it's been for about 70 years. There is nothing new that has happened.
The media painted these elections as the wipeout of Congress and the mega win of BJP. I am totally stunned as to how the conclusion was reached. Which party ever (apart from the extreme case of CPM through brutal force and scientific rigging) has ever come back to power after 15 continuous years in power. The anti incumbency was sure to take its toll in Assam and Kerala. And yet, in these five state elections, Congress won almost double of BJP's 64 seats; their winning ratio per seat contested was three times that of BJP. All of BJP seats came virtually from one of the five states while Congress' seats were well distributed in all states.
It's also strange that the Congress PR machinery too – after two weeks of the same – failed to put this simple point across. Though in 2014, I was all for Congress' ouster due to the multiple scams it got involved into, and lobbied for Modi aggressively through this magazine, after two years of this government and its tall promises, I still find barely any difference between the two parties. Neither do I see anything exciting to celebrate – specially in the sectors of health, education, poverty eradication and justice – and most importantly, nor do I see anything specially wrong with the Congress. They were what they were, and, along with Dr. Malay Chaudhuri, I elucidated it properly in the book The Great Indian Dream about how we are in a shambles today because of their flaws. If there were some members who were corrupt, that number hasn't increased. If there were some members who were criminals, that too hasn't increased. In fact, BJP has the highest number of criminal legislators ruling us than almost ever before. After coming to power, things haven't changed at all. BJP is still fielding the highest percentage of people with criminal backgrounds in state elections as well.
Let me again put the question: so what has gone actually wrong with the Congress? The answer is, their PR machinery and their internal confidence. Internally, with each new Raga meme, they seem to be getting more shaken up. And their internal strife is talking its toll in the passion and forcefulness of its PR machinery. The fact is, Rahul Gandhi is definitely not as incompetent as people make him out to be currently. He is more educated than most of our politicians. He is becoming a better speaker by the day. He maybe doesn't have the charisma of his father (I must admit I have always had a personal bias for Rajiv Gandhi, and therefore for Sonia post Rajeev's untimely death), but he is trying hard. He is young – something that is his biggest strength – and he is has the automatic ability to keep the party together, given the dynastic history of the party.
Instead of focusing on the real issues that plague the government, the Congress is getting uselessly tangled in issues of totally no relevance. Somebody tweets, why are so many airports and stadiums named after one person – and Congress is cornered. Really, come to think if it, for our generation and actually forever, the worthiness of Nehru is beyond debate, given that with him as the PM originated the concept of India. Thus, questioning this is only immature, despite various issues we might have about where all Nehru went wrong. The other two Gandhis were "extremely" popular PMs who were brutally assassinated. So there will naturally be a few extra memorials on their name. Let's not trivialize their extremely painful deaths and huge national emotions that followed, by questioning if they deserve things to be named in their memory.
Having said that, yes, it can be debated that there are far too many things in their memory, thanks to the Congress rule for a larger part of the post-Independence era... So, my suggestion has been that we might as well have a rule that only people of historical importance post their hundredth birth anniversary can have national entities named after them.. Or maybe have a rule never to name anything after individuals – though that sounds very ungrateful. And yet, for such brutally assassinated PMs, these rules will get bent on national sentiments of the moment, I am sure. I doubt if anyone wasn't devastated during their untimely and brutal deaths. There is a limit to questioning things in the name of dynasty. Every corner of the world and every possible area has dynasties. Most importantly, in the case of politics, it's always by popular mandate (of course, I am all for criticizing dynastic politics whenever it's due to lack of inner party democracy), but leave the murdered aside. Even in the least dynastic nations, there is a special sentiment for a murdered ex-PM of the nation. And no civilized person, even years later, questions that. But I didn't see any Congress leader logically and effectively putting such views forward. It's almost as if they themselves feel guilty. They should come up and speak. They should tell the government to make new rules and lobby for those instead of demeaning the memories of the first PM or those PMs whose lives were snatched away while working for this nation.
Although Rahul Gandhi has had the massive misfortune of seeing his grandmother being slain by the bullets of those he used to play badminton with every evening, and his father – the most reluctant politician – being bombed (all in a matter of seven years), I don't want him to try to gain any extra sympathy due to that. But he must aggressively defend his family and its legacy. He just needs to take things head on and turn them on their head by taking the war to the opponents and focusing on their flaws. He needs great minds in his PR team. He needs to give more autonomy to those exceptional speakers in the Congress to come up and take the fight ahead.
And in turn, the party just needs to come together, believe in themselves and believe that by rallying behind the young man, they genuinely can revive the future of Congress. Here is a man who has seen all his loved ones snatched away by the system in the most brutal manner leaving him scarred. Here is a man, unlike most others, who doesn't seek power for its intoxicating pleasure, because he knows its downsides in the most scarring of manners possible. He is here only to keep the party together.
The truth is, had there been anyone else who could have done this, Rahul would have most likely taken the backseat. The nation needs a strong opposition; and still, Congress is its best bet!