When Rahul Gandhi conveyed his decision to quit as Congress President after its defeat in the 2019 general elections, it was generally assumed that he would be persuaded to withdraw his resignation. This confidence stemmed from the fact that politics in India does not demand accountability anymore. Even backstabbing political godfathers or family members to attain power has become fair game in Indian politics. In this era of power-hungry politicians, why would Rahul Gandhi voluntarily give up the leadership of India’s oldest political party?
Congress is not the only party which lost the 2019 general election to the Hindutva forces. The Left parties, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress, Telugu Desam Party and Nationalist Congress Party et al lost out to the Bharatiya Janata Party. No top leader in these parties resigned nor did anybody care to ask for their resignation. With his resignation, Rahul Gandhi has shown that he is in politics not to pursue power but to uphold his ideals and to fight for an inclusive and tolerant India. Most of the commentators fail to see its long-term implications and confine their criticism to the short-term churning.
Rahul Gandhi’s resignation is being projected by the media as the end of the Indian National Congress. BJP is using this opportunity to poach several Congress lawmakers in different states to not only capture power but also create an impression of Congress Party melting away. No, Congress is not going to wither away like that. The crisis in the party is not an existential crisis; it is a management crisis at the leadership level. Like any other political organization, crisis brings opportunity—the opportunity to reinvent itself to meet new challenges.
It is true that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo has changed the rules of politics and the Congress Party has failed at competing in this unconventional game—where rules are meant to be broken and the only aim is to rob victory using all means, fair or foul. Although Congress has failed to win this election, it is still the only national alternative to the majoritarian Hindutva regime. Success sans humanity and morality has a short time span and thus, the Modi-Shah rule cannot last forever. When the duo eventually falters, which will be sooner rather than later, the country will be in a dire need to fall back on a credible political party—and Congress remains that alternative.
Although Rahul Gandhi has resigned as the President of the Congress, he will continue to be the primary leader of the party and the BJP’s main political challenger. Moreover, Rahul Gandhi is the only national leader with credibility and commitment to pose an ideological challenge to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s divisive majoritarian philosophy. That fear gets reflected in the continuing vicious attacks on him by BJP leaders and its infamous IT cell despite Gandhi’s resignation. The media and the BJP continue to train their guns on Rahul Gandhi—following his movements and criticizing him. They know that resignation has made Rahul Gandhi a more powerful opponent. They can’t brand him anymore as a power-hankering political-dynast sans accountability.
The truth is, Congress Party needs Rahul Gandhi more than Rahul Gandhi needs Congress today. As for those commentators who are writing off Rahul Gandhi overlook the spectacular political comebacks that history has witnessed in the past from Napoleon to Lincoln, from Charles de Gaulle to Indira Gandhi. It is only a matter of time.