The Do Or Die Moment For India’s Congress And Nehru-Gandhi Family

On the verge of a defining moment, South Asia’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, is playing its last card to survive in political waters that have muddied Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rides on Hindu nationalism and capitalizes on the hatred of the middle class. growing against the policies of the ruling family.

To undermine Modi’s campaign against dynasties, especially against India’s first political family – Gandhi Nehru – Congress announced a presidential election after 22 years. Rahul Gandhi, a descendant of the Gandhi family, which would have been a natural choice, chose to stay away, and allow non-Gandhis to run. Dalit party leader Mallikargon is facing off against prominent author and world-renowned diplomat Shashi Tharoor for the top position.

Rahul Gandhi’s decision to implement a mass communication program to walk the 3,000 km from Kanyakumari to Kashmir is another step for the revival of the party.

Political observers say these shrewd actions may help Rahul Gandhi as in the event of another defeat, the non-Gandhi president will be held responsible and, in the event of victory, credit for his mass communication program, allowing him to make an easy comeback.

Rahul’s great predecessors – Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and Sonia Gandhi – were all presidents of the Congress party.

Analysts say Rahul, who began the rally on September 7, realizes it is a political moment for the Gandhi family.

Rahul’s performance will also have a ripple effect on India’s relations with its neighbors, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where ruling dynasties lead the dominant parties.

Rahul resigned as president in 2019, after the party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections. Since then, Sonia Gandhi has served as the party’s acting head. By announcing the elections, the Congress party also sent a strong message that it believed in the idea of ​​internal democracy.

Immediate challenge to Congress
But the party’s immediate challenge is that before the 2024 general election, it faces parliamentary elections in nine states, where it faces the BJP directly except for Telangana. Among these states are Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh too, where they are in power. If these states lose, Congress will be rejected by the opposition as well as regional secular parties considering a collective front to run in the 2024 elections. Congress will not be able to claim leadership of this coalition.

Talking to Friday TimesAbhay Kumar, a Delhi-based political analyst, said that by walking away from the presidential race, the Gandhi family had now thrown a challenge to the party’s top leaders who had criticized Rahul’s leadership ability and demanded someone other than Gandhi to take over the party leadership. Function.

More than 20 senior Congress leaders, including Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tiwari and Ghulam Nabi Azaz, asked Sonia Gandhi in 2020 to strengthen the party through a leadership change. This group is popularly known as the G-23.

Political observers say these shrewd actions may help Rahul Gandhi as in the event of another defeat, the non-Gandhi president will be held responsible and, in the event of victory, credit for his mass communication program, allowing him to make an easy comeback.

Party insiders say that the top leadership of the Congress was not satisfied with Rahul Gandhi’s way of working and was lobbying for a non-Gandhi leader. With Sonia Gandhi throwing her weight behind Karg, the same disgruntled senior leadership who had been calling for change now supports her decision. The ruling appears to have been issued even before the elections scheduled for October 17. They have abandoned Tharoor, who is also a member of Group 23, and support candidate Sonia.

Party insiders also feel that Rahul’s decision not to run will strengthen the Gandhi family’s standing in the party. This presidential election is a powerful experiment. If the experiment is successful, a new mechanism will be developed. If not, the leadership will remain with the family regardless of their president or prime ministerial candidate,” said analyst Bilal Sabzuri, who has been covering the Congress party for more than a decade.

In any of the above scenarios, the power will continue to be held by the family.

Despite criticism from the BJP, which has been targeting the Nehru Gandhi family for their involvement in dynastic politics, it is hard to imagine a Congress without the dynasty.

Lessons of political dynasties
It is the success of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty that serves as an educational guide for the political dynasties of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Congress Party was founded in 1885 by British civil servant AO Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji and S. Subramania Iyer. Jawaharlal’s father, Motilal Nehru, joined the Congress a few years later. The party was founded on the model of the political parties that fought for democratization in Europe, where political parties have internal democracies and provide opportunities for each political agent to take the highest office.

When India gained independence, Mahatma Gandhi suggested to Jawaharlal Nehru to dissolve the party as his goal of gaining independence was achieved. But Nehru continued to use Congress as his political tool.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi never misses an opportunity to target the Nehru Gandhi family to promote dynastic politics. But those who have watched Congress from close quarters say that even the ruling family must struggle to reach the top. At the time of Nehru’s death, the Congress was chaired by S Nijalingappa. Top leaders, including S. Nijalingappa, Morarji Desai and Atulya Ghosh, wanted to keep Indira out. So much so that Indira was forced to separate from the Congressional Union to form a separate party, before she could merge the two groups a few years later.

“Even Sonia had to face resistance from the likes of Sharad Pawar and PV Narasimha Rao. When Rahul became president. He came up with new ideas for revamping the Congress. But the old schoolchildren, including members of the Group of 23, did not like it. They challenged Rahul’s competence before the opposition started calling him “Babu,” Sabzuri adds.

Like Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz of Pakistan, Rahul was also born with a silver spoon, but unlike his peers, he was not able to turn his lineage into an electoral victory.

According to the great Pakistani journalist Nusrat Javid, the countries of the Indian subcontinent were able to establish successful democracies because of these dynasties. “Families that are now seen as political dynasties have played an important role in the struggle for freedom and democratization of their region – whether it is the Nehru, Bhutto or Sheikh Mujipur Rahman in Bangladesh.”

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is still fresh in the minds of Pakistani voters. They have a soft corner for pottos. However, Rahul does not have such a recent tragedy at hand.”

The march continues
Like Rahul Gandhi, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also made a long march in Pakistan earlier this year. It can be said that Bhutto’s career served as a catalyst in bringing down Imran Khan’s government.

Javid feels that the young breeds have a future only if they continue to keep their ears on the ground. He added, “The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is still fresh in the minds of Pakistani voters. They have a soft corner for Bhuttos. However, Rahul does not have such a recent tragedy at hand.”

When Indira Gandhi was assassinated, Rajiv won the sympathy and votes of the people. After Rajiv’s assassination, Congress was able to retain power for nearly 15 years. But, fortunately or unfortunately, Rahul did not have any such tragedy behind him to help him revive the party.

“In Pakistan after Benazir’s assassination, her party won and remained in power between 2008 and 13. The tragedy of Benazir is still new and so is the popularity of Bilawal,” Javid said.

The rising middle class and its growing interest in the political system emerge as a challenge to the dynasties. They can no longer simply attract voters based on their family lineage. They need to reinvent themselves.

Ibn Khaldun’s theory
While discussing the fate of the dynasties, the famous historian and sociologist Ibn Khaldun stated that the glory of a dynasty rarely lasted for more than four generations and that the downfall of the dynasty was an integral part of the process of its rise.

Whereas the first generation tends toward conquest, the second toward management, and the third freed from the necessity of conquest or administration, the fourth corrupts the wealth and human capital earned by their ancestors.

Rahul is the fourth generation of the Gandhi Nehru family. In contrast, Bilawal is the third generation and Maryam Nawaz is only the second generation. Therefore, while applying Ibn Khaldun’s logic, their chances of staying in active politics and succeeding are greater than those of Rahul.