Gandhi brand no longer sells in In­dian pol­i­tics

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

New Delhi, In­dia - In­dia’s Congress party and its con­trol­ling Nehru-Gandhi dy­nasty that has been syn­ony­mous with po­lit­i­cal power for most of the 70 years since in­de­pen­dence, hit a new low with this week­end’s vi­cepres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The Congress-backed can­di­date was crushed in Sat­ur­day’s par­lia­men­tary bal­lot by the nom­i­nee of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and his rul­ing na­tion­al­ist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The vic­tory means the BJP oc­cupy the top three of­fices of state for the first time, fol­low­ing its vic­tory in last month’s pres­i­den­tial bal­lot.

It height­ened a cri­sis for Congress and raised fresh ques­tions about the party’s top lead­er­ship - es­pe­cially 47 year old Rahul Gandhi, great grand­son of In­dia’s first prime min­is­ter Jawa­har­lal Nehru.

Gandhi led the cam­paign in the dis­as­trous 2014 gen­eral elec­tion which saw Congress win just 44 seats - an his­toric low. The party went on to de­feat-af­ter-de­feat in state elec­tions.

“The Congress faces two ex­is­ten­tial crises - lack of lead­er­ship and the ab­sence of an as­pi­ra­tional, co­her­ent vi­sion for the fu-

ture,” Mi­lan Vaish­nav, South Asia direc­tor at Wash­ing­ton-based Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace think­tank, said.

“What is stun­ning is that the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion re­sult ex­posed both of these in­fir­mi­ties, yet the party has made lit­tle to no progress rem­e­dy­ing them. If cur­rent trends con­tinue, the Congress risks ter­mi­nal de­cline,” Vaish­nav added.

While still short of an out­right ma­jor­ity, the BJP last week snatched Congress’ man­tle as the largest party in the up­per house, the Ra­jya Sabha, af­ter al­most six decades.

A favourable vice-pres­i­dent could also bol­ster Modi’s leg­isla-

tive agenda as the vice pres­i­dent dou­bles as chair­man of the Ra­jya Sabha.

Dy­nas­tic cross­roads

The cen­tre-left Congress has ruled In­dia for more than 50 of the past 70 years, most of them with Nehru and his de­scen­dants at the helm.

Since Nehru, his daugh­ter In- dira Gandhi and grand­son Rajiv Gandhi have been prime min­is­ter.

But the so-called ‘nat­u­ral­born lead­ers’ have looked like po­lit­i­cal out­siders since the 2014 elec­toral drub­bing.

Party num­ber two to his Ital­ian-born mother So­nia Gandhi, 70 - widow of the as­sas­si­nated Rajiv - Rahul has suf­fered a string of key lo­cal elec­tion de­feats in­clud­ing in the bell­wether state of Ut­tar Pradesh in March.

“To­day, un­like the past, the fam­ily needs the party more than the party needs the fam­ily,” R Ja­gan­nathan, a Mum­bai-based po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and edi­to­rial direc­tor of Swara­jya, told AFP.

“I think that Gandhi name is past its sell-by date. His mother at least had AN in­ter­est (in pol­i­tics), Rahul doesn’t seem in­ter­ested... he is un­suit­able for lead­er­ship,” Ja­gan­nathan added.

The Congress faces two ex­is­ten­tial crises - lack of lead­er­ship and the ab­sence of an as­pi­ra­tional, co­her­ent vi­sion for the fu­ture

Mi­lan Vaish­nav

(AFP)

Congress vice pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi (sec­ond from right) and his mother and party pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi leave court af­ter ap­pear­ing for a cor­rup­tion case, in New Delhi on De­cem­ber 19, 2015

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