Is Congress-Mukt Bharat the future?

The splintering of the Congress, first in Karnataka and now in Goa, raises several disturbing questions about the future of the party.

The Congress High Command, with no president to helm it after Rahul Gandhi put in his papers, is practically non-existent. And with no guidance from the top, the State units find themselves vulnerable.

But the larger national picture is even more troubling.

Of the three pivotal States that the Congress is in power, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the latter two look a bit shaky. Both are riven by infighting. Though not exactly a new phenomenon in the Congress, the wrangling these days looks more pronounced because the party is in dire straits now. Even in Punjab, the trouble between Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu is unsavoury, but the State Government is relatively strong because the Chief Minister is his own person. In that sense, the Punjab situation is unique, in that it is a Congress government with no real say from the Congress high command.

For the record, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry are also ruled by the Congress government. In the latter, it is a coalition with the DMK.

So is the much-talked-about, ugly battle cry of the BJP, 'Congress-Mukt Bharat' a reality already? "In the aftermath of a shattering loss, things are bound to look bad. But that doesn't mean we will be wiped out totally," says a Congress leader. "Parties have come back from bigger crises. If the BJP can grow to this level from a mere 2 seats in the Lok Sabha in the 80s, any party can rise. More so the Congress which anyway has all the structure and strength to grow."

It is the structure that some of the critics are questioning though. One of the key reasons trotted out for the Congress' debacle in the general election is that there were not adequate workers to handle things at the booth level. The old setup that had served the Congress well for years has fallen apart at the seams. If the last-mile-delivery is a problem, no amount of smart strategising is going to help.

Congress' real problem is the confusion at its top, says MR Rao, a senior journalist in Hyderabad. "The party feels rudderless as the top leadership is mired in its own problems. Without a good captain, any team is bound to feel adrift."

But the thing is even if the Congress manages to revive itself, will it be the old Congress? The Nehru-Gandhi clan seems to be past its sell-by date. But without it, the Congress is also strangely a lesser product. It is a classic Catch-22 situation for the party.

While the BJP may want a 'Congress-Mukt Bharat', the dwindling force of a once-powerful entity does not augur well for democracy. An all-powerful BJP, virtually a monarch of all it surveys, does not bode well for obvious reasons. The Congress needs to get its act together, if not for itself, then at least for the health of democracy in India.

But at the moment the Congress’ situation does not offer much hope. But on the other hand, things can't get any worse for it.