By Vijay Simha
In the sixth and penultimate segment of the series State of the Parties, we examine the Congress party – a political formulation born with a wide and distinguished gathering of social and political minds as founding fathers. It has since become the oldest and biggest democratic party in the world. For the past two decades, however, the party has been at its weakest, managing only to head coalitions at best. In the 2014 General Election, it is still the party to beat.
The Indian National Congress has a strange dilemma. Never has a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family expressed such disinterest in heading the party or the government.
Rahul Gandhi, as the fifth generation of the family, seems to think that no more political returns are likely from the mere fact of being a Nehru-Gandhi.
Political relevance needs to come from work, not birth, he appears to have concluded.
This would imply that Rahul must lead the Congress to victory in 2014 for him to be a prime ministerial possibility.
Even a Congress victory doesn't necessarily mean Rahul will be the prime minister.
It just makes the possibility of him not being the head of the government unlikelier.
The immediate future of the party rests on resolving the Rahul dilemma.
The truth is the Congress doesn't know where it is headed.
But then no one else does either.
What the Congress does know is how to win elections and how to form governments.
For that, the Congress is The Insider – its role will be to head an alliance if called upon to.
Image: Indian National Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addresses the special plenary session of Confedration of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi on April 4, 2013.