Political capital is not eternal, and Sonia Gandhi is one such example in Indian politics. Once a saviour, a person who renounced the position of the Prime Minister plainly and simply, today comes across as a dynast who has failed to gauge the change in society and decline of her organisation simultaneously.
A lot of blame has been heaped on Rahul Gandhi who has already conceded defeat but in essence, today's Congress is in shambles because Sonia Gandhi’s model of politics has collapsed with the generational shift in its core leadership.
When Sonia Gandhi, took charge of the Congress, the organisation was demoralised but existed in many states with plenty of leaders. Her work was primarily focused on getting the Congress families together all across India.
She did not overhaul the organisation. She only ensured that state satraps are aligned to the leadership who otherwise were not interested in listening to each other. The politics of regional satraps also worked because of mystique surrounding Sonia Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi had the deep sympathy of people because of the tragic circumstance in which Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
This model worked well till Sonia Gandhi was around and actively ensuring that satraps were allowed to perpetuate little dynasties at the regional and local level.
Ironically, the weakness lied at the heart of the 'Satrap system'. Unlike BJP, all of them could chart an independent journey outside the Congress fold, taking workers in lock stock and barrel with them.
Secondly, all the leaders pre-existed who were principally spawned by Indira and Sanjay Gandhi. I would say, primarily Sanjay Gandhi. Lastly, the only glue which kept the satraps together was power and not ideology. It is for this reason, Congress today witnesses exodus of leaders at an alarming level, emptying the party at district levels as workers never belonged to the organisation but to a set of local leaders.
Her lack of work on organisation and focus on individual-family connection politics not only added to the downfall in 2014 but also repeat defeat in 2019. The Congress calculation was again hinged on a number of regional and local dynasts who would be able to retain their seats. In 2019, the only party won and individual candidates barring odd few lost. It is only for the party work and smart alliance, Congress won seats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and for lack of organisation, all-star candidates lost to BJP which enjoys a heady combination of strong organisation married to charismatic leadership.
In a way, 2019 has ended Sonia Gandhi’s model of politics completely. Many would say as to where does Rahul Gandhi stand in all this? I would say that his tinkering with NSUI and Youth Congress acted as a catalyst for the demise of the system which was already rotting from within. Instead of picking and pushing fresh talent, elections made the process expensive, casting out poorer and not so rich aspirants.
He could also not organise the satraps on non-dynastic lines because he himself is a dynast and could not convince anybody of sacrifice their own children for the party’s health. In fact, he added to the dynasty by inducting his sister directly as a General Secretary. With no political equity, no organisation and incoherent ideology, it was a lost cause already.
Today, Sonia Gandhi only comes across as a dynast dressed up Nehruvian socialism which has been resoundingly defeated. 2019 also marks the coming of age for the national middle class which can make or break Indian elections.
There is a piece of advice which Congress can use. “Pehle Vichaar Hota hai, Vichaar Kee Neev Par Sangathan Banta hai Aur Sangathan ki Buniyad par Satta Miltee Hai."
The process seems to be in a reverse mode in Congress. The best example is that of Rahul Gandhi who in 2005 at Hyderabad Plenary said that national flag is his religion. The same man by 2017 became a Janeu Dhari Shiv Bhakta begging the question, which is the real Congress and what does it stands for today.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)