Sandeep Singh: It Is Time For the Gandhis and Badals To Do Everyone A Favour And Move On
Both the Congress and the Akalis have suffered from dynastic family rule which have ravaged the parties leaving them nothing more than fiefdoms in the eyes of many
March 15, 2022 | 5 min. read | Opinion
Two of India’s historic political parties are facing an uncertain future.
The Congress, founded in 1885, and the Shrimoni Akali Dal (SAD), founded in 1920, are the oldest and second oldest parties in India. And, while there is not much in common between the two, one is a secular pan-India party and the other a Sikh regional one, they have become increasingly similar post numerous elections across India, including in Punjab.
It is time for both Rahul Gandhi of the Congress and Sukhbir Badal of SAD to think about the future of their respective parties and their family positions within them as they sit in a full-blown crisis.
Since the early 2010s in general and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in particular, the Congress and Akali Dal are facing setback after setback.
Just two years after the 2009 Lok Sabha election victory and forming government, the Congress-led UPA faced the 2011 Anna Andolan and the 2012 Delhi anti-gangrape protest, alongside other scandals. The Congress party was on a backfoot when the BJP had started making electoral inroads nationally, as well as AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal successfully capturing local state power from Congress in the Delhi assembly elections.
Like the Congress, the Akali Dal, just two years after getting reelected, was facing growing anger and resentment over drugs and unemployment issues. The party could only win four seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, with Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP securing four seats of their own in the state without even properly campaigning.
Keeping to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Congress was routed out of power and it registered its worst-ever performance by winning only 44 seats in that election. The situation was such that it was not even given an official opposition designation.
Congress has liked to believe its strength laid in being seen by some as the pan-India party, standing for the idea of India and representing people from different castes and religions.
But, today it has become plagued with corruption and nepotism, with many calling it the fiefdom of the Gandhi family. The BJP has also successfully painted it as a party that is working against the nation and Hindus.
Congress has even failed to prove that it is not “anti-national”, despite Rahul Gandhi’s protest. People who used to vote for Congress thinking it was a protector of India are the same ones questioning the party’s patriotism.
The Akali Dal has also been faltering in a similar manner. In 2015, Punjab was rocked by Sikh protests over sacrilege cases in the state. Instead of dealing with protestors peacefully, Punjab Police killed two Sikh protestors by indiscriminately firing at them.
The same Sikhs that used to consider the Akali Dal the protector of Sikh Interests started questioning the party’s loyalty towards Sikhs and Punjab. The pardoning of the Dera Chief Ram Rahim was another matter that made Akalis lose their core vote. People started critiquing Akali Dal on corruption, nepotism, unemployment and the party’s stand on Sikh issues.
Just like how the Congress could not secure official national opposition status in 2014, the Akalis could not secure state-level official opposition status in the 2017 Punjab assembly elections, losing out instead to the AAP.
Congress repeated their ill 2014 general election fate in 2019 as well. The Akalis performed much worse in the 2022 Punjab assembly election when compared to their already dismal outings in 2017.
Despite Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi’s attempts at making over their image with a people and women-centric agenda, Congress failed to improve its performance. The same goes for Akali Dal, as they tried to present Sukhbir Badal as Veer Sukhbir and run a Punjab for Punjabis campaign. Their attempt to ally with BSP to get Dalit votes turned out to be unfruitful as well.
Rahul Gandhi lost from family bastion Amethi in the Lok Sabha nationwide general election. Sukhbir Badal lost his seat from Jalalabad in the recently concluded Punjab assembly elections. Congress vote share was around 19.49 percent, slightly improved compared to 2014. The Akali Dal vote share dropped to 18 percent from 25 percent in 2017.
Congress lost two back-to-back general elections after ruling India consecutively for two terms. The Akali Dal too faced two back-to-back defeats in the Punjab assembly elections after ruling the state for 10 years.
Congress has more than 700 MLAs in the country while winning only 53 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Akalis have only three MLAs in the entirety of Punjab.
Congress, in fact, could only win five assembly elections out of a total of 50 assembly elections held since 2014, according to a report in The Wire.
Congress and Akali Dal’s sinking ships are also being abandoned by many politicians.
According to a report by ADR, at least 222 candidates left Congress to join another political party in elections held during 2014-2021, forming a total of 20 percent of all turncoats.
Both parties have suffered from dynastic family rule which has ravaged the parties leaving them nothing more than fiefdoms in the eyes of many.
Many Indian liberals have called the decline of Congress a major threat to Indian democracy. Similarly, the Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh called the defeat of Shrimoni Akali Dal a danger for the Sikh community.
India's top historian Ramchander Guha has called on the Gandhis to retire from politics and to let Congress reinvent itself. He argued that it would be good for Indian democracy. The party, on the other hand, has thought otherwise and continues to give a vote of confidence to the Gandhis even in the wake of more disappointment.
According to a report in The Print, when talking about defeat in five state elections, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, “every state leader and MP is responsible, not just the Gandhi family. We reimposed our faith in her (Sonia Gandhi), there is no question of her resigning.”
Many Sikhs have also called on the Badals to leave the Akali Dal for the betterment of Sikhs and Punjab. SGPC member Baldev Singh Jhunda has told the Badals to free the party from their clutches. However, sycophants within the party have decided otherwise, allowing the Badals to maintain power.
As Per Hindustan Times, Akali Dal Spokesperson Prem Singh Chandumajra said, “one person cannot be blamed. A committee should be set up to analyze the reasons for the party’s worst-ever defeat and suggest the way forward.”
But something else can in fact be done. Congress and Akalis could get rid of the families that limit them.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
Baaz is home to opinions, ideas, and original reporting for the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora. Support us by subscribing. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok at @BaazNewsOrg. If you would like to submit a written piece for consideration please email us at email@example.com.