The “terminal decline” of the Congress party can only be revived by a leadership change, says historian and biographer Ram Chandra Guha, who suggests that the party’s top job be handed over to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Stressing that it was his “fantasy”, Guha said yesterday if there was a “friendly take-over” of the party by the JD-U leader, it would be a match made in heaven.
“For the Congress is a party without a leader and Nitish is a leader without a party,” Guha said at the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of his book ‘India After Gandhi’.
Nitish Kumar, he held, was a “genuine” leader.
“Like Modi, he has no family burden, but, unlike Modi, he is not a megalomaniac. He is not sectarian and focuses on gender, which is rare among Indian politicians. So there are things about Nitish that were appealing, and are appealing,” he said at the function here.
But, he said, unless the president of the Congress bestowed the post on Nitish, there “is no future for him, or for Sonia Gandhi in Indian politics”.
The 131-year old party, the columnist-author believed, could not be a major political player anymore, and could at best move from its present 44 seats in the Lok Sabha to 100.
“Now, if they have a new leader or leadership tomorrow, things could change. Two years is a long time in politics,” he added, referring to the 2019 parliamentary polls.
He said the decline of the Congress was also “worrying”, because a single party system was not “good” for democracy.
“Single party governance made even the great democrat Jawahar Lal Nehru arrogant; it made the instinctively authoritarian Indira Gandhi even more authoritarian. So what will this do to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is something that I have started thinking about,” the author — known for critiquing both the Left and the Right — said.
India had failed to emulate the stable two-party model of western democracies, Guha said, adding that the importance of two-party rivalry in states should not be undermined.
“The three states in India which have performed well over the past 70 years, according to economic and social indicators, are Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh. And all have a relatively stable two-party system,” he said.
States where a single party ruled for long years — he cited the case of Bengal under the Left and BJP-led Gujarat — were a “disaster”.
“The states that have a stable two-party system do the best because the Congress keeps a check on the Communists in Kerala, the BJP on the Congress in Himachal,” he said.
The book, a revised edition of his 2007 volume published by Pan Macmillan India, has new chapters on gender, caste and the rise of the gay movement in India, among others.