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Scindia effect: India’s 'sole' stakeholder of freedom struggle sinking into Modi quagmire

Good old days? Scindia with Kamal Nath
By RK Misra*
There is this tale about the wise man and the fool.
The wise man does at once what the fool does finally, said Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political philosophy and science.
Whether Jyotiraditya Scindia is the wiseman, and the Congress a fool, is best left for posterity to decipher but current facts bode a different political script .
This is not about Jyotiraditya Scindia who took 18 benefit-filled years to realise that the grass on the BJP side was greener. Nor is it about the fall of the Kamal Nath led Congress government or the consequential rise of a possible BJP equivalent in Madhya Pradesh.
Again, it is also not about the political engineering genius of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party chief-turned-home minister Amit Shah. This is about the Indian National Congress.
In a canvass that spans centuries many ‘Jyotis’ lighted up and extinguished. Even father Madhavrao left Congress and returned to the fold for lack of a viable option.
The fact is that the Jan Sangh-BJP – like most other parties – is born out of the Congress gene pool, Shyamaprasad Mukherjee and all. But the rise of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah led BJP to national domination post -2014 seeks a one point RSS agenda. The Congress must die for the extreme right to build a new national narrative. If it involves denuding the Congress of its bark and branches so be it. Jyotiraditya is one of many, poached nationwide as part of this strategy.
Congress, in whatever form it may be, is central to India. It is the liberal-centrist formation that must lock horns with the rightist BJP. It can bank on the emerging left for grudging support even as regional forces prevaricate. These may be the NCP-Shiv Sena in Maharashtra or the JMM in Jharkhand who have chosen to go along with the Congress. But if it fails in this task the Congress will be wiped out.
The Congress, however, seems lost in the political woods. It is tethering on the brink because of its prolonged indecisiveness caused by differences. Not within the party but within the Nehru-Gandhi family. An electoral debacle in 2019, saw Rahul Gandhi quit as party chief, but sister Priyanka, seen as a successor, kept playing wing-side but avoided centre-play, creating confusion.
The ageing and not-so-well Sonia Gandhi took charge only to accentuate the slide. Why? There is a tussle going on within the Congress between the old guards who want to safe guard their citadels and the young who would like to forge a new path and take-on the Modi establishment head-on.
The day Rahul quit, this young guard was orphaned and the oldies ensured a clear playing field for their ilk -- Kamal Nath in MP and Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan -- to the detriment of Jyotiraditya and Sachin Pilot.
As in individuals so in political parties. Age must give way to youth but the old guard surrounding Sonia Gandhi is a coterie out to scuttle what she most wants-a place for Rahul under the sun. This coterie has worked overtime to disband, even disperse, all Rahul Gandhi favourites. This same model played out in other states of the country. Jyotiraditya is just one example.
Modi is a clear-headed, calculating foe. He wants and works to take the Congress apart brick by brick. And India’s sole stakeholder of the independence struggle is steadily sinking into a Modi muddied quagmire, yet reluctant to raise it’s head and even look around.
Decisive youth-led leadership is the need of the hour for the Congress. It is still not too late to rebuild the party from scratch
The Congress needs to go no further than Indira Gandhi in lessons for revitalizing the party. In fact, Rahul began in right earnest, when he started rebuilding the moribund Youth Congress through membership drives and grassroots elections. The impact was clearly visible, but the experiment fell by the wayside when the old guard bypassed the youth in ticket allotment during the Lok Sabha elections that followed.
This was unlike Indira Gandhi. Her leadership was decisive. On numerous occasions Indira walked straight into formidable resistance by the old guards led by the likes of Morarji Desai, Nijalingappa, Atulya Ghosh (the Congress-O or Syndicate Congress) as it came to be known. Every time she took on the old guard, she created a new team. Written off, every time there was a setback, she came riding back to power after decimating her opponents with a youthful team.
The loss of power in 2014 was a classic opportunity for the Congress to rebuild its organization. Rahul’s earnestness paid dividends in the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2017 when the Congress scared the daylights out of the ruling BJP bringing its tally down to less than 100 in a 182 member house but the advantage was subsequently frittered away after Rahul relinquished charge.
Decisive youth-led leadership is the need of the hour for the Congress. It is still not too late to rebuild the party from scratch, whatever time it takes, more in keeping with the aspirations of a young India. Take a leaf out of Indira Gandhi’s political book and get to work.
It can’t get any worse, so no harm in clearing all the old obstructions and going back to the drawing board with a new team to fashion a new party. If you don’t, you perish. India needs a strong and vibrant Congress with its old value system as a counterfoil to the BJP.
You either fight or run for ever. As for those who left – and there were many and will be many more – they are best forgotten.
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: Wordsmiths & Newsplumbers

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