This is a sign of times and perhaps the emergence of a new socio-economic order. What worked for the Congress for decades was the fact that
- it was the political organisation that led the fight for freedom from colonial rule.
- it was a party that truly represented aspirations of most Indians
- the leaders were men and women of impeccable integrity; at least till the mid—late 1960s.
- socialism was an accepted political ideology around the world with the USSR being one of the two power centres. Important to note that even developed countries like France, Spain and England had a strong socialist lobby and power centres.
With the collapse of communism and socialism around the early 1990s, the power balance changed. Success of a political system (democracy) was ascribed to success of an economic system (capitalism). Country after country succumbed to this false causality. India did too to an extent though it has still not, thankfully, shaken off all the socialistic thinking.
With economic liberalisation, aspirations of the vocal middle and upper classes changed in India. Also the demographic change meant that majority of the people in India were born after independence and had no idea of what colonial rule meant and hence no value of what the party that led the struggle represented. Indian history books in schools were so pathetic that they never really taught any of this. Also the Congress party itself changed. Starting with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, it became more feudal, more centralised and more distant from the grassroots. The Congress forgot where its strength and energy and legitimacy came from. The acts of Mrs. Gandhi in the mid 1970s, sowed the seeds of the decline that we see today.
Even as we discuss the lack of appeal, we tend to forget that the seeds of liberalisation were sown by a congress government.
There are two main reasons why the policies do not seem appealing
- Socialism at its best is not only about every one being equal, it is about society taking care of those who are not strong. Humans are not beasts to live with the principle of survival of the fittest. Most of the youth and middle class in India could not give a damn about anything but themselves. The better the do, the more they want for themselves. They see any investment in social security and welfare as a ‘waste’. Just see what is happening when it comes to affirmative action for the disadvantaged, reservations for women in politics, social welfare / protection schemes like the NREGA and you will know what I mean. Might (voice) is right rules, This is happening all over the world. The powerful are striving to ensure that their power is not challenged and it keeps increasing. If they have to climb over the hopes and aspirations of the weaker sections, so be it.
- The Congress, as I said earlier, has lost touch with the grassroots. Their centralised power structures mean that everyone looks to ideas and direction from the top leaders. These leaders, and I am referring to the Gandhi family, have never really had to struggle to come into power. Unlike some of the other Congress leaders who have risen from the ranks and have considerable achievements of their own. This means that they lack the expertise and skill to strategize and even lead. They do not have the skill to communicate well and sway their constituency. They do not have the ears to the ground and aides who will tell them the unpleasant truths. Perhaps they do not have the real will come to power once more. It does not help that their main opponent is a demagogue with administrative experience.
To conclude, it is not a question of the policies not being relevant & hence appealing. The Congress does not have the skills to market the policies and change the hearts and minds of Indians who do not want to see beyond themselves.
Related post : Is it the end of the road for the Indian National Congress