Rudderless and leaderless: Is Congress withering away one controversy at a time?

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Updated: August 28, 2019 8:24 PM

The party, which has been struggling to address leadership issues ever since Rahul Gandhi stepped down from president's post following the Lok Sabha election humiliation, is finding it hard to keep its flock together.

congress, rahul gandhi, sonia gandhi, shashi tharoorDespite repeated appeals by party leaders Rahul Gandhi refused to take back his resignation as Congress president. (File Photo/PTI)

Controversies galore for Congress: It all began with the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s remarks during the debate in Parliament over abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month. Stunned by the move of the Narendra Modi-led government on Kashmir, the Congress has seen itself being embroiled in fresh controversy almost every day. The Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha wondered in parliament how Kashmir could be an internal matter for India when the United Nations has been approached in the matter. He also questioned about the status of Pakistan occupied Kashmir following the abrogation of special status. Needless to say, his utterances left the top leadership fuming and his party red-faced.

The party, which has been struggling to address leadership issues ever since Rahul Gandhi stepped down from president’s post following the Lok Sabha election humiliation, is finding it hard to keep its flock together. Even though Sonia Gandhi was appointed as the interim chief of the Congress after Rahul Gandhi turned down repeated appeals from party leaders to reconsider his decision, the party has appeared leaderless and caught unaware by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on several occasions. Be it the controversy over the party’s stand on the issue of Article 370 and the stand taken by a battery of its own prominent leaders in contrast to the party line, or the remarks by some of its leaders advising against demonising Modi, the absence of a clear line is there for all to see. And it is damaging the party more than ever.

Also Read: ‘Mischief, deliberate misinformation’, says Congress after Pakistan quotes Rahul Gandhi in letter to UN on Kashmir

No wonder then that the Congress had to jump to the defence of its former president Rahul Gandhi after his criticism of the Modi government over Article 370 abrogation was lapped up by Pakistan to push forward its propaganda at the United Nations. Sensing trouble, the former Congress chief was quick to issue a clarification. “I disagree with this Govt. on many issues. But, let me make this absolutely clear: Kashmir is India’s internal issue and there is no room for Pakistan or any other foreign country to interfere in it,” Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter. But the damage had already been done. The Congress party, by choosing to side with the narrative that the international media, failed to read the national sentiment yet again. The BJP was quick to shoot back, branding Rahul as the “darling of Pakistan”.

But Kashmir is not the only issue where the party has been found floundering. On the day that former Finance minister P Chidambaram was arrested, his counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi sided with his senior Jairam Ramesh in saying that demonising Modi was damaging the party and only giving the BJP a stick to beat it with. Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor was also of a similar view, inviting trouble from his state unit which has gone on to seek an explanation from his own party leader over his apparent praise of Modi.

Jairam Ramesh, who was part of Manmohan Singh cabinet, last week said “demonising PM Modi was wrong”. Speaking at a book launch event in New Delhi last Ramesh pointed out that Modi’s governance model was “not a complete negative story” and that criticising him all the time won’t work. Ramesh’s opinion was backed by Singhvi, who tweeted,” Always said demonising Modi wrong. Not only is he PM of nation, a one way opposition actually helps him.”

Thiruvananthapuram MP Tharoor too joined the list of Congress leaders who appear to have lowered their guard against the BJP and particularly PM Modi. “As you know, I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs. I welcome others in opposition coming around to a view for which I was excoriated at the time!” Tharoor said in his tweet.

Also Read: Kashmir India’s internal issue, says Rahul Gandhi

This has not been the only occasion that the Congress has come across as a disorganised lot. Dissent has surfaced on more occasions than one and there have been no clear attempts by the top leadership — at least visible — to contain the damage. Be it leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Bhupinder Hooda or Janardan Dwivedi’s stand supporting the Centre on the abrogation of Article 370 or former Union minister Veerappa Moily blaming his former Cabinet colleague Jairam Ramesh for policy paralysis during the tenure of the UPA’s second term, the Congress appears to be in complete disarray, damaging whatever little is left of it.

As Congress searches for answers amid apparent disarray, things are likely to get worse for the party which ruled the country for decades. Senior leader M Veerappa Moily came out with sharp criticism of Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor for praising PM Modi. Moily went on to call for appropriate action against these two leaders describing their statements as “most unfortunate”.

“He (Ramesh) is responsible for policy paralysis of our Government (UPA-2) and he is also responsible for compromising the principles of governance many a time,” Moily said. The party’s situation becomes all the more precarious in view of the Assembly elections approaching in Haryana, Delhi and Maharashtra. A rudderless and leaderless Congress, bereft of any clear line, is in complete disrder and wading into one controversy after another. With senior leader P Chidambaram facing CBI heat in the INX Media case, the Congress appears to be in dire need of someone who could arrest the party’s downfall.

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