After a disappointing performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress president Rahul Gandhi resigned from his post, taking responsibility for his party’s trouncing. However, in the months that followed the Congress is yet to appoint a full-time party president.
The party has had minor electoral wins since the Lok Sabha polls, forming alliance governments in Maharashtra and Jharkhand and performing well above expectations — albeit falling short of the majority mark — in Haryana.
However, it experienced a second successive blank in the Delhi assembly elections earlier this month. It failed to secure a single seat in the 2015 assembly polls as a resurgent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept 67 of the 70 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party took the other three.
Five years later, the Congress did worse. It not only failed to win a single seat but over 60 of its 70 candidates lost their deposits, while the party saw a 5 percent reduction in its vote share.
The dismal Delhi show has again brought the question of the party’s leadership to the forefront.
Senior Congress leaders have joined the chorus, expounding upon the need for the party to address the sense of drift that the voters across the country have come to associate with it ever since it lost the 2014 general elections.
Sandeep Dixit, son of the former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit, was the first senior leader from the party to vocalise the need for the party to choose a leader.
Speaking to the
Indian Express, he said: “I’m actually feeling rather dismayed by our senior leaders. They must come up. Most of them, those who are in Rajya Sabha, those who have been former chief ministers, even some of our current CMs who are very senior, I think it is time for them to come up and go the extra mile for their party.
“There is Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath … why don’t they get together, get other people around? There is [AK] Antony, [P] Chidambaram, Salman [Khurshid], [Ahmed] Patel…all of them have done great for the Congress. They are in the evening of their politics, they probably have another four or five years to go. I think this is a time for them to intellectually contribute … they can go into the process of leadership selection, either at the Centre or in states or elsewhere,” he added.
Dixit’s declaration appears to have opened the floodgates. More senior Congress leaders have since talked about the leadership question.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor told the
Indian Express: “We must articulate a vision for the future that embraces the aspirations of India’s majority — the young.”
He added: “The Congress is indispensable for India, to give the country an alternative unifying vision to the divisive policies of the BJP government. But to get there, we have to deal with a certain perception in the eyes of the public that we are adrift, which is hurting us since such an image will naturally drive voters towards other political alternatives, as the results from the Delhi elections reflect,” Tharoor said.
While Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Singhvi said that the party needs to have a “consensual leader” or “a group of three consensual leaders”.
“At the national level […] Rahul Gandhi should take charge. But if he is insistent not to do so, it is but natural that we have to have a consensual leader or, at worst, a group of three consensual leaders who can provide immediate leadership in these difficult times. The time for discussion and words are over. And the time for action started yesterday.”
Earlier, former Union minister Jairam Ramesh told It remains to be seen which course the Congress takes.
PTI that senior Congress leaders need to mentor their juniors. “[…] all senior Congress leaders, after a certain age, should be mentoring juniors rather than tormenting them.”