The Indian National Congress cannot be revived as a major national party of its golden old days any time in the future though its decline may be arrested for some years, says author Ramachandra Guha. “It (the decline) may be arrested for some time. It may linger for a long time. But I don’t think it can revive as a major national party in the shape it was at one point of time,” Guha said while delivering the Netaji Oration 2017 here on Monday.
Speaking on “The long life and lingering death of the Indian National Congress” at the Netaji Research Bureau, the 58-year-old historian and writer joked that he was even prepared to “bet my smartphone” on the 231-year-old party’s non-revival.
To a query from the audience about the trend among the Indian electorate to turn to the Grand Old Party whenever anti-incumbency caught up with governments run by the non-Congress regimes, Guha replied: “My sense is we have now past that stage.”
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The Bengaluru-based Guha felt that one should not now harbour notions of the Congress replacing the Narendra Modi government in 2019 or even in 2024.
“The Congress now has 44 Lok Sabha MPs. If it gains in strength, how far can it go? 100… 200? I am prepared to bet my smartphone,” he said during the lecture on the occasion of the 120th birth anniversary of revolutionary leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Guha, an ardent admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru, felt present Congress President Sonia Gandhi was old and unwell. “She is all of 70 years now.”
The multifaceted scholar, who has at various times taught in the globe’s foremost academic instructions and penned a large body of work delving into diverse subjects like environment and social and political sciences as also cricket, was virtually dismissive of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s future as a national leader.
Guha, who has in the past advocated that Rahul Gandhi should retire from politics, said: “He is the first member of the (Gandhi) family who is not liked even by a large section in the party.”
However, the Padma Bhushan awardee also pointed to the Congress forging alliance with regional parties in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
“The Congress itself has understood its position. And so it is now tying up with regional parties. It will linger on for the time being as the junior partner of such outfits,” he said.
In Bihar, the Congress is part of the ruling grand alliance where the Janata Dal- United and Rashtriya Janata Dal are the dominant partners. In poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the Congress has formed an alliance with the ruling Samajwadi Party.
Guha, an authority on Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru, during the lecture identified and analysed the various phases in the journey of the Congress from its birth in 1885 to the present times, and regaled the audience with interesting anecdotes to buttress his points.