That the Congress party is passing through tough times needs no repeated emphasis. The Bihar assembly results combined with the debacle for the party in 12 states overall in a string of by-elections alongside the Bihar polls might have sent alarm bells ringing in the party. This pathetic scenario is largely its own making.

The party is rudderless since mid-2019, when Rahul Gandhi walked out of the President’s post in a huff and mother Sonia Gandhi had to step in and handle the affairs as “interim” president. Rahul Gandhi is around and still not around. This was evident even in the Bihar assembly campaign, which he took lightly and the party paid a heavy price for this.

Sonia Gandhi, who had demonstrated strong leadership qualities in the past, is faced with health problems which curtail her movements in these Covid times. General secretary Priyanka Gandhi fails to come upfront for whatever reason. Other leaders are not in a position to decisively act as the leadership remains firmly with the Nehru-Gandhi family.

As former minister P Chidambaram stated quite unambiguously, the scenario building up for the party is quite scary. The loss of by-elections almost everywhere in this last round signified the organisational weakness of the party. The rank and file is seriously demoralized. What this could mean is that, left unchecked, the party will perish on its own. The BJP is waiting in the wings to draw in any number of Congressmen, state after state, as was evident in Madhya Pradesh during and after the exit of young and dapper Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Leaving the field entirely open to the BJP at the national level is bound to cause serious problems for the system of democracy itself in the long term. Note the fact that the new JDU-BJP ministry in Bihar does not have a single Muslim. The regional parties are mostly family enterprises with the exception of Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee. If the regional satraps gang up and grab power at the Centre, India will script new and more horrifying chapters in corruption, waywardness, political instability and nepotism. Even national security will be at serious risk.

The Congress still is left with some ideological strengths and it conducts itself in responsible ways. It has an all-encompassing outlook and a positive world view. The party must build on these strengths, put in place a strong leadership structure at the top and at state levels too. It is here that Sonia Gandhi must act now, and act firmly. Any dragging of feet at this juncture would be suicidal for the party.

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