Congress Party – R.I.P.

Firoze Hirjikaka

It is now more or less official. The Congress Party is virtually defunct. The Grand Old Party, whose stalwarts fought for India’s independence, laid the foundation of genuine democracy in a region that had never experienced it, ensured equal representation for all minorities in a complicated and diverse nation, experimented with and then discarded Nehruvian socialism; and put India on the path of economic liberalization in 1991, is now a diaphanous shell of its former self.  

Badly Losing Control

Almost on a regular basis, political events highlight the Congress leadership’s impotence and growing irrelevance. The latest is the turmoil in the Gujarat wing of the party, where its members are deserting in droves – to the extent that the remainder has to be confined in a glorified prison to make sure that they do not defect.

Before that, that wily old political master, Nitish Kumar, merrily skipped out of the “Grand Alliance” in Bihar; and there was not a damn thing the Congress could do about. Indeed, the Congress’s claim to be a national party is looking increasingly dubious, since it only controls a handful of states – and after 2019, it probably won’t control any.

Narendra Modi is well on his way to being anointed the unchallenged emperor of India, where he can implement his and the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh’s (RSS) agenda without any need to assuage or bother about a withering Opposition, or the increasingly powerless minority communities.

The Dynasty Rule

The real dilemma of the Congress is that it was never designed as a dynastic party. In the case of Nehru, the people were so grateful to him for freeing them from the Imperialist British yoke – and overawed by his towering presence – that they happily allowed him to rule unchallenged for almost two decades. After his death, Indira Gandhi took up his mantle – and although she was authoritarian and ruthless in dealing with opposition – she had been groomed for leadership for decades previously. That is where the dynasty should have ended, in a political sense. Indira’s progeny was not groomed for leadership.

True, Sanjay Gandhi fancied himself as a shrewd political operator, but his power derived more from being Indira’s son than any achievements of his own. Moreover, he alienated the people with his forced sterilization drive – something Indira was careful not to do, in spite of her authoritarian nature.

After Indira’s assassination and Sanjay’s sudden death in an accident, there was no one of comparable stature left. Rajiv Gandhi was thrust into a leadership role he did not desire, nor was he suited for. After Rajiv’s assassination, the Congress went into a decline which is now near terminal. Sonia Gandhi, for all the Congress’s attempts to build her up as a canny politician, was at heart a housewife with no grounding or experience in politics.

The True Essence of Politics

Politics is not a profession you can suddenly take up and expect to make a success of. It requires decades of experience and coming up through the ranks. That is why Narendra Modi is so successful. As for Rahul Gandhi, his hit and miss style of politics has baffled his supporters and opponents alike. No one is sure what is on his mind, or whether he is even interested in the job. A party led by a part-time politician is virtually doomed to fade into irrelevance.

Of course, dynastic politics is hardly unique to the Congress. However, as virtually the only national party during Indira’s reign, the Congress had a special responsibility to think of what was best for the party and the nation. The irony is that both Nehru and Indira genuinely believed in democracy and yet, they saw no conflict in emulating the kind of royal succession of the British they had fought so hard to overthrow.

If Indira had had the vision to put country before family, it is quite probable that the Congress would have remained the dominant party to this day; and the BJP would still be a minor regional party. In all probability, Narendra Modi would not have risen to the heights he has achieved today. Remember it was a non-Gandhi Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, that put India on the path to economic liberalization; and replaced obsolete Ambassadors and Fiats on the country’s roads with modern Toyotas and Hondas. So, the experiment has been tried; and succeeded. It needs to be repeated. If the Congress finds itself in the doldrums these days, it has no one but itself to blame for its decline.

Mr. Firoze Hirjikaka is a retired civil engineer and freelance writer.  E-mail:


3 thoughts on “Congress Party – R.I.P.

  1. While the Dynastic rule is anathema for the concept of true democracy it sedulously managed to create an illusion amongst vast majority of voters who sedulously believed that Congress meant Mahatma Ganghi who was responsible for getting our independence and hence being mostly unlettered were led to honestly believe that they were beholden to the party. Added to the party steeped in corruption followed what all dictators do to surround themselves by a band of self serving followers whose loyalty was cultivated by throwing crumbs of power and at the same time let it be known that any body stepping out of line would be mercilessly discarded and thus having habituated to taste the spoils of unaccounted money gradually assumed unquestioning subservience that resembled the symptom of Stockholm syndrome. Thus even so called intellectuals in the party fell in line and the loyalty of thinkers, historians, even media were captured by lure of money, awards and political and institutional positions . Gradually voters realised how they have been taken all these decades and saw through the game of their pseudo-secularism in which both Dalits and Muslims were won over by rhetoric and empty promises only to be used them as their vote bank..The tragedy was compounded by the fact that Dalit and Muslim leaders who were cultivated by the Congress were so involved in enjoying the spoils of power that they neglected to use their power to improve the lot of Dalits and Muslims. Thus the stage was set for the BJP to capture power and with Modi with his charisma with his background as a Chaiwala and blessed with power to articulate ideas that touch thee chord of all has now become supreme. The fact despite no candidate was named in UP elections BJP won handsomely is a testament to what is the concept of secularism. Several path breaking policy initiatives have been taken already though true to their nature the Congress have been saying nothing has happened, Now the stage is set for BJP to win 2019 general elections and therbby hangs a tale.


  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. The Congress hegemony during the first few decades after Independence was distinguished not just by nepotism, but also uncontrolled corruption – which eventually brought it down. Now the country is heading towards a BJP hegemony for the foreseeable future. This is somewhat more sinister, because it will give them increased confidence to dismantle the secular ethos that has distinguished India from its single-religion neighbours.


  3. “If Indira had had the vision to put country before family,………” the message is the same for any political party that practices dynastic politics. “If the Congress finds itself in the doldrums these days, it has no one but itself to blame for its decline.” Same is the case with other political parties. The ruling parties in the states have no reason to bask under the glory of their much hyped leaders, one or two of them, at the center or their good performance limited to certain ministries/departments, etc. Rather, it’s the grass root administration in the states that has to be transformed so as to believe the actual change in the quality of governance that has been trumpeted time and again. That remains a distant dream,even after three years of change in the incumbency at the center.


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