The implosion is gathering momentum in the Congress as the grand old party is struggling to stay relevant in poll-bound Maharashtra and Haryana while the tremors set off by the collapse of its coalition government in Karnataka continue to shake the party. After resuming the reins of the party, which was in disarray, Sonia Gandhi appears to be losing grip as dissidence, discontent and defiance have been spreading across several State units. A clutch of veteran party leaders from Karnataka is now breathing fire against former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC president Gundu Rao, holding them responsible for the fall of the government. The party presents the picture of a bitterly divided house in Maharashtra and Haryana, going to polls next month. It is ironic that despite the economic slowdown, growing unemployment and price rise, the BJP appears to be sitting pretty and is widely expected to retain both the States. This is more a reflection on the opposition party’s inability to capitalise on the situation and present an alternative policy agenda. The mass exodus from the Congress in the two poll-bound States shows that the party is nowhere close to making a sincere attempt to reinvent itself, both organisationally and ideologically. It is clear that the party has no plan to revitalise a demoralised organisation. A major reform in the way the party functions is needed to boost the morale of the cadre and supporters. In her second stint as the party’s saviour-in-chief, Sonia faces far greater challenges now in the face of BJP’s aggressive, take-no-prisoner brand of politics.
Friction between the party’s old guard and the new generation leaders, multiple power centres of the Gandhis, disconnect with voters, lack of dynamism, confused political agenda and lack of trust in the leadership are some of the key factors that are accelerating the slide of the Congress. What is baffling is that senior party leaders often talk in different voices on important matters concerning national security and economy. Despite being the party that pioneered economic reforms in the country leading to a significant rise in prosperity levels, many of its leaders criticise markets and capitalism and end up taking positions similar to those of the Left parties. This makes the Congress out of sync with the aspirational India. There were expectations that Sonia’s return would help the party put up a more cohesive and united face. But, the old guard has used the occasion to consolidate its hold over party affairs and is largely seen to be scuttling reforms and transition of power. Prominent young faces such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, and Milind Deora feel, and rightly so, that the old guard is blocking their chances.