Why is Congress shirking the challenges at hand?

Congress has arguably lost the best opportunities to corner the Union Government when the country’s economy was in a free fall, Covid-19 cases growing and impending border standoff. However, the main opposition party has certainly not been best placed to mount an offensive against the Centre. While the grand old party has for long been shirking the twin challenges before it- the election of a full-time president and resolving internal dissensions. And now, a former Union minister, Kapil Sibal has stirred a row with his remarks post Bihar election results that “we are yet to hear on recent polls.

May be Congress leadership thinks it should be business as usual”. Sibal may have exhibited his credentials as a successful lawyer and a suave spokesperson, but the knives are out for him. One of the 23 leaders who had earlier written a letter to Sonia Gandhi seeking reforms, his demand for a fresh review after the defeat in Bihar has triggered a searing counter-attack over the public expression of disaffection. The Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha suggested an exit route for the dissenters: ‘They may set up a new party or join one which they think is according to their interest.’

No party is immune from the dynamics of infighting but when 23 senior leaders write a letter to leadership, it was supposed to wake the grand old party from its slumber but nothing apparently changed. The Congress still doesn’t have a full-time president, more than 15 months after Rahul Gandhi quit in the wake of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll rout. The party is busy spending its energy on taming the ‘Group of 23’ that had lobbed a ‘letter bomb’ at interim chief Sonia Gandhi on the eve of the Congress Working Committee meeting.

There has been no introspection except formation of new committees, which only suggests that the party is not open to sweeping reforms. The Congress is hesitant to either articulate or own a position consistently on several important issues including national security and economic policy. This is often because it is torn between its own ideological moorings and tactical considerations.

Party functionaries say that some senior leaders have been prevailing on leadership to ward off elections, as they fear being sidelined. Many of these leaders have not fought elections for long and are away from ground reality. Gandhis need to understand that the party can continue its political relevance only if it either hands over charge or leads from the front ignoring leaders with selfish interests.  

There is so much ammunition to take on the government and the onus lies on the principal opposition party Congress to set its own house in order by first announcing the much-delayed organizational revamp and ending internal dissensions. However, the million-dollar quandary is Shakespearean “to be or not to be that is the question”. Will Congress cease the opportunity and take on the government, which is the primary task of the opposition, or allow the opportunity to slip away!