The latest chapter in the distressing saga of Congress party in the country sounds very familiar. Like a distraught child running to find comfort in the warm embrace of its mother, the deeply divided party has sought comfort in the familiar, the Gandhi family. After a marathon meeting of the party’s Central Working Committee, seeking of opinions from its state units, it decided that the party matriarch Sonia Gandhi should run the party as its president. In doing so, Congress party leaders from across the country, apparently reposed their faith in the Gandhi name to prevent Congress from unraveling. For his part, the recently resigned Congress party president Rahul Gandhi who could not work his magic in the last Parliament elections, was right in stepping down from his position owning moral responsibility for Congress’ defeat. But the real problem that faced the party was not his resignation or determination to stick with his decision but Rahul’s call for party leaders at all levels to shoulder the moral responsibility for Congress’ poor performance in the last general elections.
On the face of it, Congress operates on the principle of a top-down command structure – with its famous ‘High Command’, the euphemism for the Gandhi family calling the shots – no matter what or where the issue is with the party. This has been a perfectly cosy arrangement for Congress’ regional satraps – the Pradesh Congress Committee presidents, as well as their High Command appointed overseers. Successes were claimed as their own by such pashas peddling their own power but Rahul was intent on changing things and take back the magic lamp. If Rahul had his way, the High Command genie would have disappeared in a puff of smoke leaving those who rode to power on Gandhi family’s coattails to power and pelf, to face the prospect of accepting responsibility, an action many in Congress are not familiar with. So regional leaders with one voice jostled with each other reposing their faith in Rahul as soon as he announced his decision to quit his post. Everyone began singing the Rahul must stay song. Had they accepted the challenge thrown by Rahul to revamp the party, they too would have had to hold themselves accountable for their party unit performances in their States. And this prospect of facing up to their failures was scarier to most Congress leaders than their party facing the possibility of being ground to dust by an ever belligerent BJP. Rahul’s biggest contribution to the party would have been if Congress leaders chose a non-Gandhi family member to lead them. But by not doing so, Congress leaders proved that truth and reality do not matter as long as they can hang on like deaf bats in a belfry that cannot hear the bell tolling for them.