Economists generally hesitate to draw inferences even from the medieval period, when large parts of the world were dominated, regrettably, by robber barons and mad monks.
The washout in the Delhi assembly election appears to have provoked many leaders in the Congress to speak out about the party’s steep decline. The remarks have ranged from reproaching senior leaders who seem content with the BJP’s defeat at the hands of the AAP while overlooking the terrible Congress withering, to a deeper questioning of the ideological stasis and leadership deficit in the Congress. The open admission of a crisis is significant — at the very least, it breaks with the complacency so far, which projects the electoral decline of the Congress as a cyclical phenomenon that will get corrected on its own. But the belated questioning has evident limits — those asking for solutions seem to be part of the Congress problem.
Congress leaders started taking public aim at each other after P Chidambaram congratulated the AAP for defeating the BJP and Delhi leader Sharmistha Mukherjee tweeted: “With due respect, sir, just want to know — has (the Congress) outsourced the task of defeating BJP to state parties?” It has continued, with another leader of Delhi Congress, Ajay Maken, responding to a tweet by Milind Deora, in which the former Mumbai PCC chief praised the AAP government’s fiscal management, by urging him to “leave the party”. Prominent leaders like Veerappa Moily, Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari and Sandeep Dikshit have expressed concern that the party has been unresponsive to repeated electoral defeats. Tewari has spoken of Congress failure to ideologically and politically address issues ranging from economic liberalisation and secularism to public perceptions that it is a party of dynasts. His suggestion that the party of P V Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram, key players in the reforms saga, is yet to figure out where it stands on the new economy, is provocative. Dikshit has blamed senior leaders for being scared to “bell the cat” on the leadership issue.
These are valid questions and concerns. But the problem is that those who are raising them are part of the problem. The Congress crisis has been building and over the years, few, if any, of its leaders have been self-critical in addressing the leadership, organisational and ideological issues plaguing the party. Hardly any of them has been working at the grass roots or in the organisation, to find a way out of the Congress standstill. Any honest reckoning of the collapse of their party’s political fortunes must begin with Congressmen and women acknowledging their own complicities.