When Rahul Gandhi offered his resignation to the Congress working committee on May 25 owning responsibility for the party’s defeat in the 2019 elections, the immediate reaction was that it was a political gimmick that would pass off sooner or later. Weeks passed and Congress workers started fasting and requesting Rahul Gandhi to withdraw his resignation. It added to the impression that the ‘drama’ of the resignation would end soon with an announcement that Rahul Gandhi had acceded to requests, succumbed to party pressure and had agreed to withdraw his resignation. But Rahul Gandhi surprised everyone. He set the matter at rest on the 3rd of July with a letter clearly stating why he was convinced that he had to step down.
What little I have understood of Rahul Gandhi following personal interactions with him as well as his public life, I can say without fear of contradiction that Rahul is no run of the mill politician. He may not be a saint or Mahatma who has no love for power. But he is surely not hankering for power for the sake of power. He is committed to certain ideas and ideals in politics and he is sincerely pursuing those ideals in his public life.
He has abundantly made his political ideals clear in his resignation letter. He writes: “I have no anger or hatred towards the BJP but every living cell in my body resists their idea of India.” He first enumerates the BJP’s idea of India which he defines as: “where they see differences, I see similarity. Where they see hatred, I see love. Where they fear, I embrace.” He is clearly talking about an inclusive, multi-cultural, multi -lingual and multi-ethnic idea of India which is the civilastional basis of this country.
BJP’s ideology of Hindutva based on one nation, one language and one culture negates Rahul’s idea of India. It also negates the very foundation of Indian civilisation. Therefore, Rahul Gandhi says that “every living cell of my body instinctively resists their idea of India.” Rahul Gandhi’s battle in 2019 elections was this battle of ideas. Unfortunately, the Congress rank and file did not understand this battle of ideas that was on in the last Lok Sabha elections. It was another battle of power for the party and therefore Rahul rightly said in his letter that he often found himself ‘alone’ in this tussle of ideas. The Party failed to close ranks and the results was there for everyone to regret.
Unfortunately, Rahul Gandhi seems to stand alone in the vast crowd of Congressmen. He alone has taken responsibility for the defeat and arguably for none of his fault either. No one can accuse Rahul Gandhi of being insincere in his fight against the BJP before or during the election campaign. He led the party from the front and with great courage of conviction. As a matter of fact, the BJP seemed to be losing the battle till Balakot happened. It was only the artificially infused hyper nationalism that turned the tables at the last minute in BJP’s favour. And, there are clear indicators in support of such a premise.
Rahul Gandhi was appointed Congress President in December 2017. Between 2017 and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he led the Congress in five assembly elections, namely, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Rahul gave Narendra Modi a run for his money on his home turf in Gujarat where BJP barely managed to return to power with a reduced majority. Rest of the four states have Congress governments now in the saddle, courtesy Rahul Gandhi. Wasn’t it his leadership that infused new energy among Congressmen in these states where Congress was out of power? You therefore cannot fault Rahul for his leadership quality during the period when he was the Congress President.
The rest is history. The Congress did lose the 2019 battle of hustings badly. The only man who has taken the responsibility for the Congress debacle is Rahul Gandhi, who ironically put up a spirited fight for the idea of India for which Congress stands.
The tragedy of the Congress party is that its rank and file did not care much for the idea that built the party. It fought for power rather than for the ideals of Congress. It made Rahul Gandhi ‘lonely’ most of the time during elections and left the party without power, which most Congressmen pursued. That is why Rahul Gandhi’s missive to Congressmen carries the important signal that pursuit of an inclusive idea of India alone can make the pursuit of power worthwhile.