Rahul Gandhi gave a strong and significant speech today at the concluding ceremony of the 3-day Congress Chintan Shivir in Udaipur.

He remained firm on his repeated statements that the battle of Indian politics is not an electoral battle but ideological battle. A fight between truth and lies, Gandhi and Godse, liberalism and conservatism, progress and regress and so on. It is not an easy fight, he said, and for him, it is the fight of his life.

“It’s my life’s struggle. I refuse to believe that this beloved nation has so much anger and violence. I would fight RSS’s ideology all my life, I’m not scared. I’ve never done anything wrong; I’ve not taken one paisa from bharat mata, so I have no fear. I am in this forever,” Rahul Gandhi said.

Gandhi appeared calm, confident, and courageous, how one should be when they have to fight the long fight. After every election loss everybody from the mainstream media to senior Congress leaders to supporters start to panic. Some start mocking Rahul Gandhi, some get depressed and some give knee jerk reactions. But Rahul Gandhi does not get perturbed by electoral losses because there is more to the elections than just win and loss.

Elections in recent years have not been fought on level playing field. Money, media, state machinery–everything is on BJP’s side. It is a complete imbalance. Winning elections depends upon people mindset, media need to do their job, election commission, ED, CBI, IT all need to be independent and function as per their constitutional mandates and not to appease their political masters. Election funding schemes like #ElectoralBonds needs transparency without which there is a shocking imbalance in party funds. For example, around 95-98% of the total electoral bonds are going to BJP alone every year. In such circumstances election losses should not scare the party leaders but make them stronger. That is why despite losses Rahul Gandhi appears stronger and more determined to fight, something the Bhartiya Janta Party and certain section of the media do not appreciate. They systematically create a narrative that to build a strong opposition either the Congress party should die or the Gandhis should be banished from politics.

Rahul Gandhi responded to this narrative by firmly asserting that Congress is the only alternative to BJP and regional parties cannot be the face of the opposition. Referring to some of the dissenters inside the party he said, “Sometimes our senior leaders go into depression. I understand them. It’s not an easy fight, but only Congress can take it up. The regional parties cannot and will not do it because this is an ideological fight and they do not have any ideology. That is why even BJP does not target them. BJP only targets Congress, so does the mainstream media.”

“Even the people of India know that only Congress party will listen to them. Congress party was born out of people,” he added.

Having clearly stated his ideological position, and asserting that Congress is not going anywhere, Rahul Gandhi then candidly spoke about the responsibility they party must take up and some of the changes required in the way the party functions:

  1. Communications: Rahul spoke about strengthening the communication aspect of the party. “BJP is much stronger in communications, they have much more money, but we have to improve. We have to go to the people, spend time with them, not one or two days but months listening to people. You will not win this fight sitting at home, you would have to shed your sweat,” Rahul said once again as a message to those senior leaders who have been with the party for 20-30 years and have not visited their constituency for a single day in decades. They have enjoyed power during Congress’s glory days but are now either crying and complaining or jumping ship and joining BJP. They should rather do the hard work of getting on ground. “Get on ground” is a quick suggestion people tend to repeatedly give to Rahul Gandhi but the truth is he is already on ground much more than others. It is the rest of the senior leadership who needs get on ground now.
  • One family one ticket policy: “We should limit party ticket to only one person per family. 5-6 members of the same family are getting tickets this needs to change.” After the 2019 elections, Rahul Gandhi had hit out at the party’s senior leaders who wanted ticket for their sons and daughters and did not let younger generation from non-political background.
  • Replace the old with new: “We have to aggressively push out the old leaders who are holding party position for 10-15 years and put young leaders in those position. Replace all the DCCs and PCCs with new younger faces. Make them fully dynamic so that they can take on the divisive politics of RSS.”

Several of his comments today were about his long fight with the Congress old guard about which very few people know. The problem of indecisiveness in Congress party stems from the constant internal battle between the young leaders of the NSUI and IYC whom Rahul Gandhi himself have mentored and the old guards.

Rahul’s strong statements today gave the message that perhaps he is ready to take up the party Presidentship, and as and when he does that, he will not compromise on these principles he has always advocated.

The Congress party today needs Rahul Gandhi’s courage to fight the battles ahead more than number crunching and quick fix strategies or ideological comprises like religious outreach. It is time Rahul takes up the Presidentship and takes strong decisive actions to bring the radical changes he has been trying for a long time.

Rahul Gandhi also reminded everybody that while Congress party gets the blame of being dynastic and lacking in internal democracy it is only in Congress that a robust platform such as the Chintan Shivir meant to hold open conversations was possible. “Which other party will allow these conversations? Indian politics needs such open conversations but BJP does not allow them. To have open conversations we need strong institutions which are being systematically destroyed,” he said.

Indeed, the amount of complex internal structures, processes and the massive public interest in the party’s functioning from CWC meetings to Congress Plenary Sessions to the Chintan Shivir, it seems as if Congress is not a political party but a nation unto itself.

The Chintan Shivir was held after a gap of nine years. It was attended by around 430 party leaders and concluded on Sunday, May 15 with deliberations by the Congress Working Committee on the recommendations submitted by six committees formed for the Shivir. The CWC announced the ‘Udaipur Declaration’ and present the roadmap for the 2024 elections.

On the next day senior leader Kapil Sibal quit from the party, though the news finally broke on May 25.


An edited version of this piece first appeared on National Herald. You can read it here.