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Congress' Zero Sum Game: Rahul Gandhi's Russian roulette is a dangerous play for the Congress

Rahul Gandhi's resignation at this point is inexplicable. He should have waited till the storm blew over and then handed over to a deputy.

Russian roulette is a lethal game of chance in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against their head and pulls the trigger.

Their brains can be blown out — or they survive the round while the next player faces greater odds of being out dead.

Nobody, least of all Congressmen and women, seems to have any clue as to what exactly is going on in the party.

So let’s play a game ourselves and put forward a multiple-choice question.

Is the Congress president (outgoing) plotting a suicide mission, a reincarnation/rebirth, a great escape — or indulging in none of the above and does not know himself?

So can we, therefore, describe the consequence of recent events as leading to reckless endangerment by the (outgoing) president? Let’s work with the facts that are on the table. There are some that are laid out in Rahul Gandhi’s resignation letter. First, as we all know, he said that as president of the Congress, he was taking responsibility for the loss of the 2019 election.

Fair enough — good to own responsibility. But I have a question here: when a ship gets wrecked, is that the point when the Captain says, “Hey! I quit and now you guys figure it out.”

Or does the captain wait till the storm has blown over, collects the debris, try to save some lives and then hands over to a deputy, vice-captain or whatever? Is there not a decent interval after a wreck when a new captain takes over?  

Think it over: Is this really the best time to quit? (Photo: Reuters)

Let’s move to the next question. Right after taking responsibility, Rahul throws in another few sentences that say, “Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president. Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019.”

I have many questions here. Who is he pointing the finger at? The data analytics team that was apparently clueless and misdirected the campaign as opposed to providing any real feedback or support? The state units or the national organisation? Who precisely is Rahul Gandhi targeting in those?  

The answers given by people with more experience than me in covering the Congress has been that he was hoping to trigger a mass resignation of the old guard — many of whom are in the CWC or Central Working Committee. If that is indeed so, why not say so to them directly? Let’s presume that he did say so in private meetings — but they refused to take heed, as his authority has been undermined. Then what stopped Rahul from saying so publicly? They would have been forced to quit.

Determined to stay? Sources say the Congress old guard refuses to take Rahul's 'hint'. (Source: India Today)

Maybe.

A small diversion to point out that the other Parivar, namely the RSS, publicly declared that people above a certain age should retire from politics — the target at that time was LK Advani and a few veterans of the Vajpayee age who were clinging to whatever was left after the 2004 NDA defeat. So politicians do cling — it is an established norm in a field with no retirement age.

The Congress old guard is left with even less than the BJP had in 2004 (though some do have terms that will eventually end in the Rajya Sabha). But what they do say in private is, why should they be the targets when it is the younger leaders who have no backbone and many have reached out to the BJP?

Fair enough. Rahul must have heard reliable reports of feelers being sent to the BJP. Still, some of the younger lot have resigned, so let’s see what happens next. 

Then, in his letter, Rahul also says that "Many of my colleagues suggested that I nominate the next Congress president. While it is important for someone new to lead our party, it would not be correct for me to select that person.”

In a perfect world, that is the correct position — but surely Rahul knows that the Congress is an unhealthy structure today that would go into chaos over a Nehru-Gandhi quitting?

He could have suggested and formalised some structure while quitting — empowered panels from the states, asked younger leaders to throw their hat in the ring? Or on a lighter note, begin a spiritual search such as that for the next Dalai Lama.

Then, further in the letter, we have a counter-factual to the argument that Rahul Gandhi wanted the CWC to resign: "Immediately after resigning, I suggested to my colleagues in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) that the way forward would be to entrust a group of people with the task of beginning the search for a new president. I have empowered them to do so and committed my full support to this process and a smooth transition."

Back to the letter where Rahul says, “At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it.”

'Completely alone?' For real? (Photo: Reuters)

What on earth does he mean?

Alone, as the leader of a national party? By this time, the crores of citizens of India that voted for the Congress would be utterly confused. They should equally be angry at what is unfolding while the Congress spirals without any command and control.

Witness the Karnataka collapse. And, by the way, the BJP is not moving in on Madhya Pradesh because they are in no hurry — they know they will get there eventually and they have a few leadership issues of their own to settle in the state before they give serious attention to Bhopal after Bangalore.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi quits: But the Congress still has a future with hope in it. It's up to the party to unearth that

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