This article was first published in Times Of India Blog on 12.03.2020. You can read it here also.
In 1722, disgusted by the corruption and intrigue during the time of Muhammad Shah ‘Rangeela’ and hopeful of founding his own state in Deccan, as the Nizam left Delhi (where he was Prime Minister) to be Viceroy of Deccan, one scholar commented: “His departure was symbolic of the flight of loyalty and virtue from the Empire.” Within 15 years, the Mughal Empire was all but finished. Marathas raided Delhi in 1737, and ultimately Mughal Emperor became the puppet of Marathas before the English took over in 1803.
The exit of Jyotitraditya Scindia from Congress has many parallels with the exit of Nizam. The Congress, already afflicted by directionless leadership, factional fighting and battered badly in elections, mirrors the 18th century Mughal Empire in more ways than one.
The revolts in Congress are almost as old as Congress itself. The first notable split being in 1907 at Surat session between moderates and extremists. In the 20th century, Congress split dozens of times and many small regional parties came into existence. There is Trinamool Congress in Bengal, NCP in Maharashtra, multiple Kerala Congress in Kerala apart from parties like Tiwari Congress, Congress (o), Tamil Manila Congress etc. which do not exist now.
However, Congress built during the freedom struggle was a movement rather than a party and had a strong contingent of leaders. Till the 90s, leaders with the legacy of freedom struggle were active in Congress and it had a strong pan-India presence. Despite the misinformed attempts of Indira Gandhi to make it more centralised, its provincial leaders had great influence in determining its policies. It was mirrored in the election of Rao as PM and later Sitaram Kesari as President.
The anointment of Sonia Gandhi coincided with the marginalisation of provincial leaders for the benefit of Kitchen Cabinet. The Kitchen Cabinet of Mrs Gandhi is still composed of those unelectable wheelers and dealers of Congress politics. The Gandhi -Vadra family practically silenced all dissenting voices in the party and many illustrious leaders left Congress during the last 20 years including former CMs, former Union Ministers and dozens of sitting legislators. Leaders like Hemant Biswa Sharma were insulted and left for BJP and helped BJP become the dominant party in North East. The trend continues with the ouster of Scindia. The result has been complete decimation of Congress in many states e.g. UP, Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, Andhra etc. and its irrelevance in national politics.
The brief reign of Rahul Gandhi and his system change rhetoric must have given hope and ignited ambition in young leaders like Scindia, Pilot, Deora etc. However, he could not walk the talk against the Kitchen Cabinet of Mrs Gandhi. Add to that the ambitions of Priyanka Vadra, and it was a recipe for disaster. The Congress had a brief rejuvenation in Punjab, MP, CG and Rajasthan. In Punjab, the hero was Captain who even forbade Rahul from campaigning and he had to agree. He is one of the last strong regional leaders in Congress. In MP, CG and Rajasthan anti-incumbency and work by young leaders like Pilot and Scindia delivered for Congress. Rather than rewarding them, they were ignored. The disaster struck in Lok Sabha elections and then Delhi Elections. There are murmurs of Pilot, Deora, RPN Singh etc. leaving Congress for greener pastures. That forebodes serious trouble for Congress-led or supported governments in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The allies are slowly showing true colours with RJD in Bihar denying them Rajya Sabha seat.
Congress itself lives in denial. There is no urgency to choose a new president despite almost weekly reminders by impatient leaders. Nobody dares to confront the Gandhi-Vadras. In a comical turn of events, Sonia Gandhi ‘expelled’ Scindia after he had already resigned. If Congress continues on the same path, one could see its demise within a few years with newer parties like AAP and regional parties benefiting apart from BJP. It would be a tragedy as well as fitting irony that the oldest political party in India which fought for democracy perishes due to lack of democracy within the party itself. The party which once dared to defeat nominee of Mahatma Gandhi for Congress President in 1939 dare not move against Sonia Gandhi
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