It was expressed long before the parliamentary elections of 2014 that India will soon be made free from the dynastic congress party that has been responsible for declaring the country a secular republic soon after its independence in 1947. Appeasing the minorities for securing the vote bank was another accusation against the party.
The slogan ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (Congress-free India) was first raised by the right-wing, Bharatiya Janata Party under the leadership of Narendra Modi as a prelude to electioneering in 2014. It made most people laugh and ridicule at the time. Because of the obvious reason that the Indian National congress has its roots trenched into the soul of India. According to political analysts, BJP needs only a miracle to cut them off.
RSS, considered to be the parent body of BJP had had serious issues with the Congress leadership during the freedom struggle that was seen accountable for the Hindu-Muslim divide much earlier than the current polarisation in the country has become visible.
RSS and its outfits were banned by Pt. Nehru soon after assuming the premiership of free India.
At the time of achieving Freedom from the imperial British, Mahatma Gandhi suggested disbanding the Congress so that the party’s glorious image would be remembered in history. Many politicians reiterated the demand at the onset of BJP’s acquiring space in the National political landscape.
Looking at today’s India after almost eight years of BJP’s rule, it is hard to believe that the presence of the Congress has diminished except in Rajasthan and a few other small states where the party seems to be breathing its last.
The final nail in the coffin of the Congress is the recent resignation of senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, that did not only shook the party internally; it dealt a major blow to the party’s recent nationwide campaign to reinvent and then, reconnect with the masses.
Ghulam Nabi Azad is a leading member of the dissident group of the Congress called ‘G23’. The old guard group has been putting a lot of pressure on party Chief Sonia Gandhi for an internal reshuffle within the cadre, including a directive to keep Rahul Gandhi out of the decision-making process.
The old-guard politicians seem unhappy with the way Rahul wants to take the party forward. He was held responsible for recent debacles in state elections, thus not capable to lead the party.
Sonia Gandhi had tried hard to keep the flock of dissidents together until now, but senior Congress leader Anand Sharma’s recent rhetoric and now Ghulam Nabi Azad’s accusations against Rahul Gandhi that he has a coterie of security guards and assistants taking childish decisions, have further weakened the party internally.
The general feeling is that more senior leaders are planning to either distance themselves from the Congress, which might come forward with a separate party in the future or leave the party for green pasture. Azad has shown the way forward.
Yet, the recent Ram Lila ‘Halla Bol’ rally had the presence of all senior leadership on the Dias. Rahul Gandhi’s scathing attack on Modi’s policy was the main agenda without speaking a single word about internal turmoil in the party.
Azad severed fifty years of a close relationship with Congress. During his career, he has represented the party from the ministry in the Cabinet to the leader of the upper house of the Parliament, Rajya Sabha as the leader of the opposition. Leaving the party at the time it needed more its seasoned politicians were taken very badly by its cadre. Many called him the ‘ political opportunist’ who achieved the heights without even getting elected once from his home turf.
According to the senior leader of the Congress, Jairam Ramesh, “Azad has left the party at a critical time when we are facing a crisis in the country. He should have supported the ‘Bharat Jodo’ campaign of the Congress launched against the ongoing economic crisis and the religious violence that has become a threat to our secular democracy”.
The Congress party reacted cautiously; however, it is strongly felt that Azad’s statement against the Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi was an attempt to seriously damage his credibility among workers that too many in the country replicated the tone of the BJP.
Senior leader and historian, Shashi Tharoor and a few other leaders have also called for a transparent election of the party chief that is due to be held this month according to the plan.
A large section of the Congress workers is persuading Rahul Gandhi to take the reins of the party President, who has repeatedly turned down the offer in the past. There are many possible contenders among the G23 group who are set to claim the leadership role.
Ravinder Yadav, a professor of political science in Hyderabad, says, “Azad has become the new Muti Muhammad Syed, who also moved his politics from Delhi to Kashmir after holding top cabinet berths at the Centre. Like Mufti, Azad will also try to portray himself as the Messiah of Kashmiris. Mufti hobnobbed with Vajpayee and raised the slogan of “healing touch”. After the state elections, he threw the people into the lap of the BJP. Azad has Modi at the back. He has a project to validate the abrogation of Kashmir’s internal autonomy. Modi also wants to present him to the Islamic countries with which the dent in relations has occurred after Nupur Sharma’s comment on Prophet Mohammad. Then, the thunderous voice of Asaduddin Owaisi among the Muslims of India needs to be countered, for which no one except Azad can do the job. Modi will use Azad to combat many with one arrow. In return, he will get his reward as the head of the JK”.
Kashmir mainstream has been seen in jitters, especially after the announcement of the formation of a new party by Ghulam Nabi Azad. The local parties are considering him a big challenge in the current circumstance when the leadership is facing a survival and a credibility crisis.
Congress has had minimal representation in Jammu and Kashmir in the last few elections. Now, the party seems to have been completely wiped out. Most of the workers left Congress and joined the Azad camp. The same fate Congress has met in most parts of India.
It is widely anticipated that if Azad gets even a few seats in the upcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir or an attempt would be made to get a few seats through electoral manipulation for him, he will be the new Chief Minister of this region as promised by Modi clandestinely.
When Azad’s tenure as a member of the Rajya Sabha was ending in the Indian Parliament two years before, Modi while praising him in send-off speech shed a few tears and then, awarded him with high honour.
Modi has almost been successful in making all his dreams come true which he had shared before entering the political arena. He came to hoist the tricolour at Kashmir’s Lal Chowk in 1992 when the militancy was at its peak and former governor Jag Mohan had said that “Kashmir has already been swallowed by Pakistan”. The ritual of hoisting the tricolour is being performed in Lalchowk every other day now; even though, it is still been done under tight security.
The dream of a Congress-free India seems almost complete to Modi. The task of burying the Congress forever has been taken by Azad, who is well connected with the G23 dissident group of the Congress. He might lure them to change the course. According to a senior leader of congress in Jammu, Azad might have been promised to sit on the throne of Kashmir, which is being decorated on the graveyard of twelve million signs, aspirations and dreams.
The world is silently enjoying this drama unfolding which has already started a debate on the dying democracy in India. But can BJP make India free from Congress; I strongly believe that BJP will have to stay in power for a few more decades to fulfil this dream.
Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor
(Journalist & Author)