The Great Unravelling: India after 2014
A former Congress spokesperson elaborates on the lack of an internal forum in the party to discuss leadership and other issues...
When Sanjay Jha, now removed as a Congress spokesperson, had first tweeted about a letter by senior leaders questioning the party's leadership and functioning, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had not only dismissed it as a rumour but also suggested that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may be behind spreading such stories.
Jha's book The Great Unravelling: India after 2014effectively puts to rest that he could be in league with the grand old party's bitter political rival. In fact, the book should be seen in the context of an opinion piece that he wrote for a newspaper on March 3, 2020, in which he had complained about the lack of internal forum for frank debates and exchange of views.
It is also an attempt to find out what explains BJP's repeated electoral victories despite the country facing many challenges, including a floundering economy after the party came to power in 2014.
"In 2014, BJP's vote shares had climbed to a staggering 31 per cent from a mere 18 per cent, seemingly on the back of Modi's dodgy Gujarat model of development. But what explained the considerable jump to 38.5 per cent in 2019, when all talk of development had been given the short shrift?
The only reasonable conclusion is that Indians approved of the prime minister's theatrical oratory, majoritarian nationalism, muscular Hindutva, and, presumably, willing to sacrifice jobs and future prospects for these," writes Jha.
The author, whose association with the Congress started in 2004 as a "non-political communication" specialist, is unsparing in his criticism about the Congress party's role in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 or the Rajiv Gandhi government giving in to clerics to overturn the Shah Bano judgment.
"The Rajiv Gandhi government reversed a progressive Supreme Court judgment by bringing about a constitutional amendment, and never quite recovered from the taint of that decision. The banning of author Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses further cemented Congress' reputation as Muslim sympathisers," Jha notes.
Congress minus the Gandhis
The former Congress spokesperson gives an insider account, is incisive about the challenges faced by the Congress, but the author is fairly honest about his fascination for the Gandhi family. He is critical of Rahul Gandhi's leadership, his inability to inspire the rank and file of the Congress yet thinks of him as a long distance player who knows that marathons are always lonely affairs.
Perceived to be the "unofficial spokesperson" of Congress' G-23 - group of 23 dissenters who asked for an overhaul of the party in a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi last August - Jha asserts that the Congress will survive minus the Gandhi family. "The answer to that is an unequivocal yes! ...I know many who fit the bill. But first we need to go to the drawing board," he writes.
No revival plan
The answer to the leadership question could become even more critical once the Congress' performance in the upcoming Assembly elections to Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is known on May 2. The book acknowledges that the Congress is dealing with adversaries - Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah - unlike any other the party has known before. However, it stops short of offering a concrete plan on how to deal with them.
Jha's book has several episodes that would be of interest to any beat journalist (and this writer is one of them) for an insight into decision-making in the party; but what really stands out is the author's ability to weave in many sub-plots without losing sight of the big picture narrative. The Modi government has failed India, admits Jha, but "the Congress is failing India as well."
Courtesy: THE HINDU