With the defeat in the Bihar assembly elections, dissenters in the Congress have once again spoken of the need to introspect, expedite internal organisational reforms, and settle the question of leadership — where Rahul Gandhi is in charge in practice but not in theory (because he does not want to assume formal charge of the presidency), and other aspirants are not quite sure whether the Nehru-Gandhi family is in or out. But while settling the question of leadership through organisational elections is imperative, there is another area that should worry the party— its ideological confusion.
Two recent incidents have highlighted this gulf within the party. On the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a section of the Congress leadership appears to believe that India has made a mistake by staying out, while others claim this is a vindication of the Congress’s stand. On Kashmir, while the party opposed the effective nullification of Article 370 in Parliament, it is reluctant to demand its restoration (as the Gupkar alliance has done) for the fear of losing votes in the rest of the country — but the fear of being seen as B-team of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Mr Gandhi’s ideological opposition to the Centre’s measure also means that the party cannot quite support the move either.
Having a diversity of views within a political formation has its strengths. But it is clear that on key questions of national security, economic policy, and occasionally even domestic political issues, the Congress is hesitant to either articulate or own a position consistently. This is often because it is torn between its own ideological moorings and tactical considerations — in the process, it may neither remain true to itself nor be able to win over voters.