Role of the Indian National Congress and the way it led the Indian struggle for freedom is not unfamiliar. It is known by all, read by all and applauded by all. But there seems a huge difference in the Congress of then and now. The party was once guided and led by the finest of the leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Bipin Chandra Pal, Surendranath Banerjee from all spheres of life, caste and religion. Though different yet their goal and vision was one and that was probably the binding factor of the party at that time.
Despite a very strong lineage and list of achievements there are many issues at present which by and large are deteriorating the image of this historical political party. Events like the massacre of Sikhs in 1984, the Emergency of 1975, increasing corruption within the party, slow development of the country under the rule of the Congress and so on are few to name.
The Indian National Congress began its journey in 1885 and within few decades the party was well known in all the major cities of India. But still something was holding it back and stopping it to become a national party and this included its every debate and proceeding in English and activities confined to the major cities of India. Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and infused blood to the Congress. He encouraged the use of vernacular language and brought rural masses, especially women and peasants to make it a national political party. He created a strong social base for the Congress by abolishing untouchability, and promoting Hindu-Muslim unity. Enough was done to touch the cords of almost every Indian by Mahatma Gandhi for the Congress. It looks as if such a vision is not a part of the Congress anymore.
But in the issue of then and now, today the Congress is scrutinized for its being ruled by a Gandhi family and its dynastic rule. For more than half of the century, the Congress has been influenced by Nehru-Gandhi family. No doubt that Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi had given development but it must not be overlooked that there is a complete change in the generation of voters. A voter under 30 and even 40 does not vote by taking history into account. They cast vote on the basis of present. If asked probably no one out of them would be able to explain Nehru’s or for an instance Rajiv Gandhi’s role in the development of India. They will tell their own experience and likely to talk about corruption in the party.
Media and masses at large talk about the incapability of the present President and Vice President of the Congress and their failure in running the show. There is probably no news on Rahul Gandhi’s contribution towards the development of the Congress as well as nation. Though he has been holding the prestigious position within the party for the past nine years but except for this nothing much has heard about him. Within this span he should have contributed to the development for the benefit of the party. Rahul Gandhi is not seen as an individual political leader but as a son and a brother. He should travel more across the country and give innovative ideas to develop India so that people can relate to him and see him as their leader.
Sonia Gandhi’s roots in Italy seems to be the major road block as many Indians are unable to connect to her and doubt if she has the similar patriotic feeling for India which an Indian has. The Congress must get out of the shackles of a family business and breathe a fresh air with some very experienced leaders handling the reins of the party.
The party won just 8 seats in the Delhi Assembly elections last December and ruled out in other states as well. The magnetism of Nehru-Gandhi family now seems to be diminishing. Opinion polls are indicating huge loss of the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha elections. It is apparent that present caliber of the Congress leaders is not that effective and influential which it used to be. Obvious reasons which led to the failure of Congress are the corruption within the party, extremely slow development of India, inflation, and growing popularity of the BJP and new entrant the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
But how and when the much integrated India started to disintegrate and who to blame cannot be said with rigidity. People for sure blame the ruling party and political leaders.
In recent rally at Gwahati, Rahul Gandhi said that Congress needs a change which indicates that something is seriously wrong and party must work on that to regain its popularity. He is now taking keen interest in changing the outlook of the party which he should have started nine years back. Probably now he must have realized the actual hurdles in the growth of the party. He is trying to bring young leaders on the board but party needs both young as well as experienced political leaders for a complete and positive transformation of the Indian National Congress.