The Congress phoenix has risen from the 2014 ashes
We must also pay homage to the collective wisdom of the Indian people. When there was a feeling that our polity was beginning to threaten the pluralistic nature of Indian society, the self-regulating mechanism came into play and is likely to continue to do so until the balance is restored.
As with the legendary bird, the Congress has risen from the ashes of 2014 to once again begin its role as the grand old party that led India to freedom and ruled it for many decades thereafter. Having witnessed or been involved in all the elections since 1952, I have five quick takeaways from the recent assembly election results.
First, it has shown that the formidable Modi-Shah electoral machine is not invincible as many had thought, but, in fact, can be defeated not only through a gathbandhan (alliance) but even in a one-on-one contest with the Congress. This explodes that myth that the present dispensation is necessarily poised for a return in 2019.
Second, the elections have highlighted the fact that Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a full-fledged national leader in his own right, despite all attempts by the powers that be to humiliate and denigrate him, including what, in my view, was unpardonable, by mocking his claim to be a Shiv Bhakt and pouring scorn on his visit to Kailash and Mansarovar after the still unexplained near-fatal aeroplane episode that he encountered while campaigning in Karnataka. He campaigned relentlessly in all the sates, especially in the three Hindi-speaking ones, and his frontal attacks seem to have had their effect. I may add that it is unfortunate that unbecoming language was used on both sides. Dragging the prime minister’s parents into the debate, in particular, was in very bad taste. Rahul will have to see that Congress enthusiasts do not overstep the bounds of decency, regardless of the language used by the other side.
The third takeaway is the critical importance of having strong and active state-level leaders. For example, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh, and Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, represent two generations of active and committed Congress leaders. Over the past several years, instead of building up state leaders, the Congress seems to have followed a policy of sidelining them and striving to keep all the power in the centre. In a huge, diverse and pluralistic country like India, this strategy is self-defeating. Under the young and dynamic leadership of Rahul Gandhi, we should now see a significant change in policy and a sustained effort to build state-level leaders all over the country.
Fourth, although the Congress has done extremely well in all the three Hindi-speaking states that went to polls, in the two big ones — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — it is still bereft of effective state-level leaders. Alliances, of course, are essential, but the Congress has to start seriously rebuilding its cadres in these huge states which together send 120 members to the Lok Sabha.
Finally, we have to pay homage to the collective wisdom of the Indian people. Over these decades, I have seen how our remarkable democracy and Constitution have given us a self-regulatory mechanism whereby any substantial movement against democracy is ultimately corrected. The Emergency elections of 1977 and the next one of 1980 showed this in a most dramatic matter. In the present instance also, when there was a growing feeling that our polity was shifting too much in one direction and beginning to threaten the pluralistic and inclusive nature of Indian society, the self-regulating mechanism has again come into play and is likely to continue to do so until the balance is restored. All in all, therefore, three cheers to Indian democracy and well-deserved kudos to Rahul Gandhi and his team.
Karan Singh is scholar, philosopher and politicianThe views expressed are personal