of national power.” The Gandhis haven’t found an answer to this. Nor can they complain about it, because they were the ones who established the principle of a political party as a closely held family concern.
In fact, so lazy has the Congress leadership been with its politics that while its own vote base has been taken away by these satrap families, a number of mini or sub-dynasties have risen within the party. Partly because that’s where the leadership’s comfort level is: isn’t it so much easier to deal with familiar faces, to be among your “own”, generation to generation? And partly because the party had no other mechanism to produce new crops of leaders from student, trade union or even tribal or farmers’ movements, the traditional nurseries of Indian political talent. So the party now has Amarinder Singh, wife and son etc in Punjab, the Hoodas in Haryana, where Kiran Chaudhary represents the Bansi Lal lineage as well, Sheila Dikshit and son in Delhi, Virbhadra Singh in Himachal, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, all of whom represent sub-dynasties and are mostly capable of winning their own seats. You can go on counting, from Narayan Rane in Maharashtra to even Pranab Mukherjee and son in West Bengal. The Congress owns them all, but is no longer capable of challenging them. It tried to defy one such, in fact the most prominent of these, and ended up creating the political disaster called Andhra Pradesh.
This is the central problem with the party: its top leadership can no longer win national elections. Its efforts to rekindle the Gandhi-Nehru family nostalgia cannot go beyond the party faithful today. And it has no regional leaders to counter these 15-odd regional dynasts. Its own group of political scions is like a chamber of princes. They have failed to extend their influence beyond their own constituencies. The party’s politics is trapped now in this rut. And you cannot pull it out of this simply by invoking the name of the family, even five generations of it. This just won’t do in the India