It finally took the much put upon former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit to point out that the emperor wears no clothes. Ina recent interview, the Congress leader said Rahul Gandhi needs to "mature as a leader".
Dikshit was last year pulled out of genteel retirement and proclaimed the party's CM face for the Uttar Pradesh polls and then abruptly binned.
Her words in the interview are quite a damning verdict on Gandhi, 46, who has presided over the dwarfing of India's oldest party to the point where it plays junior partner to regional players, as in UP and Bihar, and finds itself wiped out of most of India's political map.
While Amit Shah, BJP president, talks of "Congress-mukt Bharat", it's Gandhi and his motley crew which has reduced the Congress to a zombie, rambling and defeated in electoral contests and lacking any will to power.
The very raison d'etre of a political party is winning elections. Consider what a smug entitled silver spoon heirloom Milind Deora tweeted after the Congress faced a historic low in the recent BMC elections. He incredibly blamed the voter!
Yes. Deora said: "Conclusion one can draw from BMC election is that Mumbaikars seem content living with potholes, flooding, malaria & water tankers".
He did not draw the conclusion that Mumbai preferred anyone but him and his arrogant out-of-touch party which seems to believe that ruling India is its birthright.
Deora did not see the rot within which has leaders like him indulge in sabotage and infighting and destroy the Congress's prospects.
Sanjay Nirupam, Gandhi favourite and Shiv Sena defector who is Mumbai party chief, offered to resign in the wake of the poll result, but should the buck stop at Nirupam?
Consider the following:
- The BJP is unstoppable when it is faced with the Congress in a direct contest but struggles against strong regional leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi and Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav in Bihar.
- The BJP has even decimated the Congress in Odisha and emerged as the main rival to the Biju Janata Dal.
- Congress leaders say there is absolutely no clarity on who is in charge from the Gandhi family and what the party's strategy is if there is any. Says a frustrated senior leader: "We claim to be the main opposition yet we are junior partners to Akhilesh Yadav in UP after a series of flip-flops. And honestly, we are dragging the SP down as after getting 104 seats, we are struggling to fight with poor candidates. Will this bring us to power in 2019? Gandhi ducks taking over the mantle of Congress chief; will he duck being the party's leader then? Will we even remain a player on the political field?"
This is true of the existential dilemma facing the party. Imagine, even Punjab which has suffered years of Akali misrule, is still not quite in the bag for the Congress, with the AAP giving it a tough fight. This despite having a strong satrap like Captain Amarinder Singh.
|Congress leaders say there is absolutely no clarity on who is in charge from the Gandhi family.|
Gandhi could have stopped Narendra Modi in his tracks in Assam after the BJP faced a humiliating defeat in Delhi and Bihar, yet chose to inexplicably insult state strongman Himanta Biswa Sarma who, smarting after his encounter with Gandhi and his pet dog, chose to defect to the BJP!
Behind Sarma's humiliation was Gandhi's preference for Gaurav Gogoi, son of Tarun Gogoi who has zero traction and mass appeal in Assam.
Gandhi's fondness for heirloom politicians like himself is not shared by the voters. And like Gandhi the heirloom, exceptions like Sachin Pilot shirk responsibility.
While Pilot has taken over as state chief in Rajasthan, the Congress has no credible faces in states like Madhya Pradesh (MP) which only witness intercenine warfare between Congress leaders.
Jyotiraditya Scindia is believed to be grooming his son for his political debut while Digvijaya Singh's son has already debuted, but the fathers and leaders such as Kamal Nath are still slugging it out with MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan despite the mega Vyapam scam.
Gujarat, which will go to polls later this year and is ripe for the taking from the BJP, has not caught Gandhi's fancy. While Kejriwal is all set to give the BJP a fight, the Congress has no leader and no issues.
Gandhi turned down Hardik Patel's pleas for an alliance and Patel has tied up with the Shiv Sena. Says a senior Congress leader: "We could win Gujarat if Gandhi parked himself there. Led agitations. Enough issues exist. Defeating Modi in his citadel would transform Gandhi into a leader people take seriously, but he's simply not interested. We are not going to win UP, yet his obsession continues. If it's only UP he should have made himself the face, yet he ran away. Now we are leaving the entire field for Kejriwal."
The Congress has been reduced to a rump considering that only 6 per cent of India now lives in states ruled by the party - the lowest since Independence. Even more worrying for the party is the fact that elections are due in five of these states before May 2018, with prospects appearing dismal for the Congress in Karnataka - the only large state it rules currently.
The Congress rules in four smaller states and two in coalitions. Worse, it has been nearly wiped out in the Hindi heartland with hardly any prospects of a revival. Even in the North-East, the BJP managed to eject it from Arunachal Pradesh.
So while Gandhi matures, the party is in coma. It has no creditable issues it can call its own and despite the Modi-made disaster of demonetisation, he seems to be emerging unscathed.
Gandhi lacks conviction when he speaks on issues and the fact that the party seems to have spiralled downwards ensures that neither the party nor the opposition nor the voters take him seriously.