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The G-23 Revolt That Wasn't

March 26, 2022 11:25 IST
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Members of the G-23, who had shown courage to point out the flaws in the party's functioning, have allowed themselves to be co-opted by the Family to go through the motions of a post-mortem, notes Virendra Kapoor.

IMAGE: Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi, left, with Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the G-23 group with the party. Photograph: ANI Photo

Yet again, the Family is set to survive the electoral disaster.

The on-going postmortem into the wholesale rejection of the Congress party in the five states would eventually come to nothing.

Because, as in all previous electoral wipeouts, the top leadership remains unaccountable. Everyone else is dispensable, not the Family.

It is remarkable that Sonia Gandhi, who has been acting president since more than two years, has procured the resignations of the party heads in the five states, the suggestion being as if they were responsible for the party rout. They were not.

They had not earned their place as head of the party units, having worked their way up from the grassroots. No.

They owed their position to the generosity of the Family. Their dismissal means nothing.

If anyone were to own moral responsibility for the humiliating defeat, it had to be the Gandhis.

They alone call the shots, appoint the Pradesh Congress heads, name chief ministerial candidates and generally set the tone and tenor of the campaign.

In doing all this, they betray their own complete lack of political maturity.

If the truth be told it were they who were rejected yet again by the voters, not the ordinary Congressmen and women who still cling to the party in the hope that someday not very far it can recover a small part of its old glory and elan.

Therefore, it is doubly painful that members of the G-23, who sometime ago had shown some courage to bell the cat, as it were, pointing out, albeit most gently, the flaws in the functioning of the party, have allowed themselves to be co-opted by the Family to go through the motions of a postmortem the outcome of which is a foregone conclusion.

It is like a coroner's court conducting an inquiry with clear instructions not to treat the man caught standing with a blood-stained dagger over the body a suspect.

In any inquiry, it is a pre-requisite that those directly involved in disastrous decision-making withdraw themselves till they are cleared by the findings.

This is absolutely essential for the inquiry to be fair and independent.

Therefore, unless the Gandhis step aside, the exertions of the G-23 to fathom the causes of the party's humiliating defeat would prove futile.

As it is, in the political bazaar the Congress is now a rejected brand, its best far behind it.

An example from the world of business and advertizing is instructive.

People of a certain age will remember how till the late 1960s one of the most popular cooking oils was Dalda.

Manufactured by Hindustan Lever, the country's largest maker of fast moving consumer goods, it was a pioneer in marketing the hydrogenated vegetable cooking oil (ghee), in the country.

But after enjoying a near monopoly for several decades, Dalda fell on bad days, with newer players offering stiff competition.

Being a professionally-run company, seeing the writing on the wall, Hindustan Lever soon sold the Dalda brand to a private entrepreneur.

The new owners re-launched it with great fanfare accompanied by a marketing blitz.

But despite every effort they failed to restore the old and dominant position of the once ubiquitous ghee found in most north Indian kitchens.

As any advertising professional will tell you, once a brand, however great it might have been in its day, loses its sheen, no amount of marketing can revive it.

Not unlike Dalda, Panama cigarettes too were popular several years ago but not much is heard of them now.

The point is the Congress has lost its pulling power.

In the political bazaar it is a tainted brand, with newer players increasingly edging it out of its home turf.

For instance, Punjab was one state where the party should have won.

But thanks to the Gandhi scions, the Congress did everything to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It will be hard for the Congress to claw back in the state since most of its leaders carry a huge baggage of corruption.

In contrast, it will take time for the inexperience and ineptitude of the new rulers to take a toll on the people in the border state.

Let us come back to the show of a post-mortem.

The G-23 crowd, lacking a credible leader with a grip on the popular imagination in a small geography anywhere in the country, was only too eager to humour the Gandhis.

Instead of insisting that they step aside for the party to elect a new leadership through a transparent process, they once again fell in line.

The diktat to cast aside the five PCC chiefs as sacrificial goats clearly showed that the main culprits will go scot free.

The reason why the G-23 cannot act decisively is that all of them have relied on 10, Janpath -- Sonia Gandhi's residence -- for survival.

Neither Ghulam Nabi Azad nor Kapil Sibal or anyone else in the G-23 could become an MP had they not had the Family's blessings.

That is why there can be no real inquest into the slow and painful death of the once great party.

The Gandhis, the very thick-skinned Teflon Family of India, will carry on undisturbed, relying on hope that Modi and others will fumble and fail someday and, as a result, their fortunes would yet again recover.

In the short run someone like Bhupinder Singh Hooda will extract his price and oust Kumari Selja as the Haryana Congress chief.

While a sulking Sachin Pilot would be persuaded not to rock the Ashok Gehlot ministry and instead accept a seemingly high but ineffectual position in the soon to be reordered party organisational structure at the headquarters.

These band-aids when the brain is haemorrhaging can only lead to further disaster.

The Congress needs drastic surgery, not a cosmetic make-over to cover its rotten innards.

In the absence of that drastic surgery, expect more electoral rebuffs.

And finally the complete irrelevance of the Grand Old Party.

Newer players like Arvind Kejriwal and older pros like Mamata Banerjee will fill the space vacated by the Congress.

Remember, the Congress is in power on its own only in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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