Rahul Gandhi – what next for him? I write for CNBC-TV18 on life after resignation as Congress Party President
Rahul Gandhi today broke free of the Indian National Congress neck lock and put out an open letter resigning as Congress President. His Twitter bio changed to reflect his new status- member of the Indian National Congress. He wrote in his letter “As President of the Congress Party, I am responsible for the loss of the 2019 elections. Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reasons that I have resigned as Congress president. Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as president of the party.”
And, accountability is the question that the Grand Old Party needs to debate. There seems to be very little of it in the party. There is no logical reason why someone like Digvijay Singh is taking calls, fifteen years after he lost the Congress Madhya Pradesh. Or indeed, why Sheila Dixit is taking calls after her leadership saw the Congress wiped out in Delhi, and her continued leadership ensures they stay out of even being a respectable opposition. When was the last time Abhishek Manu Singhvi won anything? There is no reason why there is so much dead wood amongst ‘leaders’ who have no followers on the ground. Who are they leading?
In any other organization, they would be sent home with a polite handshake. The Congress party’s generosity in forgiving those responsible for losses, multiple times over, is inexplicable. And, the sheer entitlement of those who hold on to power, despite losing multiple times over is even more unfathomable. Don’t they even feel responsible? Don’t they even know the magnitude of what they failed to achieve? When you look at what is wrong with the Congress, a lot of it has to do with the people who are at the top echelons across states, and the centre, who can’t deliver elections. One man or woman is not miraculously going to change the situation, it must be a systematic rebuilding of the party based on a certain set of values, that resonates with the people. Rahul Gandhi’s resignation may jolt some of these people out of their slumber and make them move out making way for new people and fresh ideas. But the rest would possibly be still unaware that there is something called accountability.
For Rahul Gandhi, his role as Congress President may be over, but his role as a Member of Parliament, and party member remains. He needs to extend his full co-operation to the new Congress President and ensure that his party does not undermine the new President, by constantly saying “Rahul ji will decide”. This will be a tough balancing act for him, but it has to be done if the new Congress President has to have authority and legitimacy in the Party.
As a party member and a high profile one at that, Rahul Gandhi has to work tirelessly to help the new Congress President replace this cadre of ‘leaders’ with fresh blood- women, and men who are ambitious for power to bring about change. People who believe in grassroots work. People who have a track record of working for the public. Not people who want the power to maintain the status quo. And to do this the Congress has to select the person most likely to win a seat. Not the person who has the ears of the High Command and can plead most effectively with them.
And, finally freed up of organizational responsibilities, Rahul Gandhi would need to focus on two things. One is his role as a Member of Parliament for Wayanad, and he needs to represent the interests of his constituency in Parliament. He also needs to be more active in debates. And, finally, he needs to discover India, not as someone making speeches, but someone listening to the people. As a career politician with life in politics, he has to understand the pulse of the people beyond the cloistered atmosphere of the Congress Party. This can be his discovery of India.