“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


Congress And Its "Unprecedented Political Challenge""

India is experiencing unprecedented political challenge. It is posed by the backward looking, authoritarian, rightwing forces who have acquired control of the levers of the state power. Political process is benumbed. By sheer habit, it is trudging along in the old rut.

Opposition politics is visionless, splintered, regionalised, and ineffective.

The main, all -India opposition is still the Congress, the Grand Old Party of India. A lot is being said and written nowadays about it.. The latest in the trail is the statement issued by 23 high profile insiders.Those who have dreamed of a" Congress Mukta Bharat" could not have been happier.

The point is not whether some insiders are frustrated or some outsiders are beside themselves with joy.

The point is that the Grand Old Party will not wither away and the goings- on in the Congress have implications for Indian polity, its character and its future.And this cannot simply be wished away.

Congress is the only mass-based political party which has had , all along, an all-India popular base.The base expanded and shrank from time to time. But it has always been there.

Its historical identity with the freedom struggle gave it a head start. Its wont to mean different things to different people contributed handsomely to its appeal.

Normally, the former factor should have vanished with the passage of time. And the latter could have led to its splintering. Neither happened. Mainly because of the iconic presence of what the currently fashionable parlance describes as 'dynastic leadership'. That leadership ensures both : an organic link with the freedom struggle and the centripetal attraction which overcomes the looseness and the ragtag nature of much of its following.

So it is a vital need of the Congress to have "a dynast" as its leader,. Remove that and the Congress loses the sap which makes it survive. Is it any surprise that those who want to liberate Bharat from Congress train their guns fiercely and tirelessly at the "dynasty"?

It is beside the point, therefore, to argue that Congress should encourage alternative leadership.

Given the unique position of the Congress , and the dismal state of the opposition politics in general, what can and should Congress do to meet the unprecedented political challenge that the Indian polity is facing ?

It goes without saying that the Congress should first silence all talk of alternative leadership and forthwith restore formally its natural leadership.

The historic task of the Congress at the current juncture is, as in the pre-independence era, to provide a national inclusive platform for all oppositional politics, and not to function as a partisan election winning machine. Then it was a platform for all politics opposed to colonialism.Now it should be a platform for all politics opposed to the authoritarian, backward looking, rightwing politics of the ruling party.

Indeed the role of providing a unifying platform for all oppositional politics demands that the Congress concentrates more on the unifying rather than divisive elements of politics.

The unifying role would imply a good deal of cerebral endeavour, marathon negotiations and a huge organisational effort : Starting with a common minimum programme, common analytical and advocacy material, a common campaign and culminating in "a single opposition candidate " opposing the ruling combine's candidate in the elections to Parliament, and possibly also in the state assembly elections where the ruling party combine is in power.

The necessary counterpart of the grand opposition strategy would be that the Congress withdraws from or downsizes its role in electoral politics, particularly where it is not a significant force. Such a strategic withdrawal from divisive, partisan electoral contests will not only conserve material and human resources of the Congress for better, unifying political pursuits but will also fortify it with a moral high ground in preaching and practising unfying politics to overcome the unprecedented political challenge.

This should not be misconstrued as a prescription of Sanyasa from all electoral politics, for the Congress.

But it will certainly imply self-abnegation in northern states of UP, Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir, and the eastern states of West Bengal and Orissa. The Congress should essentially leave the field in those states to regional forces. Instinct of self- survival will then drive those forces to work out a strategy to defeat the real common adversary.

It will also mean leaving electoral politics in Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, MP, Chhattisgarh Gujarat and Assam to the old and tried hands of the regional leaders of Congress. Their recent electoral performance has been good and this exceptional dispensation should incentivise them to perform even better as part of the common opposition strategy.

Following the same strategic logic, the Congress should graciously defer to the estranged elder brother, the NCP, in Maharshtra and have a pre-election alliance with the Left Front in Kerala.

In other Southern states of Karnataka,Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the Congress should simply back the winning horse: support whichever party as would be in a better position with its support, to defeat BJP and its allies.

The Congress has to do this consciously, deftly and swiftly. What appears as a short term electoral sacrifice will be more than compensated by substantial and durable political gains.

First and foremost, the Congress will not simply survive as a national political force but also recover the past aura of national leadership through its role of providing an inclusive, national platform for promoting solidarity amongst all political forces pitted against the authoritarian, rightwing challenge.

Withdrawal from or downsizing of the role of election winning machine in a large number of states will conserve its electoral muscle for those states where it is relatively stronger. More important, it will inspire confidence across the political spectrum of non-BJP forces and ensure their whole-hearted cooperation in parliamentary and extra- parliamentary politics pitted against the authoritarian forces.

The Congress then will truly assume the role of the Indian National Congress. Not as a poor legal successor to the goodwill of a historical signboard.

But as a potent instrument of historic renewal of its nation- building role, as the indefatigable defender of the Idea of India which, in its glorious past, it had conceived, nurtured and brought into reality.

S.P. Shukla is retired from the IAS having served the Government of India in different capacities including Secretary in the Ministries of Commerce and Finance.    


  • River in a 'Court of Law' - Legal issues pertaining to its personality
  • Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy
  • When the State Sought to Muzzle Privacy, U-Turn Now Only to Accommodate SC Verdict
  • The Bull in A China Shop Wrecks Indian Economy
  • When Buddha Looks The Other Way: The Plight Of The Rohingya
  • A Fatal Blow to The Judiciary
  • The Dramatic Rise in Wealth Inequality
  • Wild And Baseless Speculations of Crisis in the CPI(M)
  • Budget 2018: Fantabulous Schemes With Not A Paisa Earmarked
  • Kasganj: Sankalp Foundation and the Politics of Hate
  • PM Modi Sounds the Election Bugle: Congress and Hindutva the Agenda for 2019 Polls
  • The US Game Plan in Syria
  • Both Nehru and Patel Were the Need of the Hour in 1947-48
  • The Battle of the Two Begums of Bangladesh
  • Why Bangladesh Matters
  • Kejriwal's Apology is Not What the Media Claims
  • Arrest of a '5-minute Dalits' Proves Why SC/ST Act Dilution Will Grossly Impact Real Dalits
  • The Dalits and the Law
  • Winners May Be Losers In Karnataka's Catch 22 Endgame
  • Jinnah and the BJP
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Nov 14 1889- May 27, 1964): We Still Live In A House That Nehru Built
  • Implications of Trump-Kim Summit: Nuclear Pays!
  • Thomas Reuters Foundation Survey: Measuring Safety, Generating Outrage
  • What Are People Voting for?
  • Foreign Policy: A Double Whammy Awaits India
  • Changing Discourse
  • Assam: The Mythology of "Immigrants"
  • Imran Time is Here
  • 71 Years on, Forsty Relations Countinue
  • To Stop Climate Change, We Need to Open Bordera
  • Make Use of Bid to Postpone Provincial Elections
  • Cringing and Fuddled at 71
  • Ensuring Strident Voice Will Not Become Majority Voice
  • Nehru, Vajpayee and Modi
  • Religious Bias Okayed
  • The Oslo Accords: A Bloody Legacy of Betrayal
  • Crushing the Campus
  • Three Stories And Task of The Office Of Missing Person
  • Drama Over Indo-Pak Meeting
  • An ill Wind
  • Symbolic Actions Alone Are Insufficient For Long Term Change To Occur
  • If Democracy Subverts Itself
  • Returning Land to Civilians is a Promise That Needs Follow Up
  • Democracy In Crisis: What we Know and What we Don't
  • Reparations Office Can Bind The Nations Together
  • Implementation Challenges Facing The Ayushman Bharat Program
  • Subverting the Central Bank
  • Under the Yoke of New-Imperialism: A Fake War of Patriotism and Treason
  • India Joins the Club
  • The Third Phase
  • President is Best Situated to Resolve Political Crisis
  • No Country for Adventure: Challenges Extreme Sports Athletes Face in India
  • Setting A Perilous Political Precedent
  • What Rahul and Modi can do in the Next Four Months
  • Finding a Win-Win Solution to Break the Deadlock
  • Temple in the Age of Colliders
  • Four Parameters of a Political Solution at This Time
  • Resolve National Question With President's Support
  • Decapitating the Leadership
  • Four Takeaways From the 2018 Election
  • Science of Words
  • The Ace up Modi's Sleeve
  • The Government Must Not Deny The TNA
  • The Prolonged Wait For Justice And For Political Leadership
  • Endgame in Afghanistan
  • Pluralist Ethos is More Relevant to National Identity
  • A Concerned Citizen's Points For Inclusion in The Manifesto of Political Parties
  • In My Own Voice: Circle of Unreason
  • RBI To The Rescue of Modi Government - It's Election Time!
  • Say No to War
  • A terrifying Fallout
  • The Type of Leadership The Country Needs
  • Death Wish as Nationalism
  • Politics on Kashmir Need Not be About Optics Alone
  • Why an Urban Job Guarantee Scheme is Not a Bad Idea
  • National Security: The New in 'New Normal'
  • Re-Promulgating an Ordinance is a Fraud on the Constitution
  • Elections 2019: India at a Crossroads
  • Peace and Inclusive Development
  • NYAY Providing Basic Income Fulfills the Vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Changed Election Narrative Based on Basic Issues
  • Advani Should Blame Himself For Promoting Modi
  • Kashmir: Tracing the Degeneration of Mainstream Politics
  • Elections and the Issue of Civil Liberties
  • Jumlanomics:Chronicles of a Post-Truth Bharat
  • BJP: Hiding Failures, Targeting Nehru
  • A Mayawati Moment
  • Godse is a Synonym of Hindu Nationalism, Agenda of the RSS Combine!
  • Development Beyond Numbers
  • A Rational Approach to Countering Extremist Violence is Needed
  • In My Own Voice: Is This the Sprit of Democracy?
  • Prevention is The Best Migration Cure
  • The Rise of Hate
  • The Right Mantras for India's Change
  • Coming Home - Where Family Overpowers All
  • Easter Sunday Bombing Used to Create a Major Rift in Sri Lankan Society
  • Hacking Humanity
  • Environmental Rule of Law in India
  • Peace is a Word That West Has Taken From Afghans
  • Trump's War Games
  • Modi & States
  • Who is an 'Outsider' in West Bengal?
  • China on Maps
  • 19th Amendment Will Correct Itself at End of President's Current Term
  • Authoritarianism and the Crisis of Public Ethics in India
  • Presidential Candidate The People Want
  • Has India's Kashmir Cape Given Pakistan Reason for War?
  • Icons and Ideology of Religious Nationalism
  • Why NRC in Assam May Create Another Kashmir
  • Campaign to Abolish the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka is a Red Herring
  • As US Tries to Isolate Iran, China Steps In
  • Of Hindi and Hierarchy
  • Why Sri Lankan Elections May Bring Far Reaching Change
  • What US Policy Tells Us About India's Growing 'Friendship' With It
  • Gandhian Philosophy is a Critique of Modernity and Power
  • Inner Party Democracy is Just as Important as Funding
  • India's Foreign Policy Has Dug Itself a Deep Hole
  • 'Broken Promises' and Politics of Hate': Is Political Autonomy The Way Forward For J&K?
  • The Ninth Betrayal: America Has Let Down Khurd, Yet Again
  • Who Benefits From The WhatsApp Hacking Case?: Pertinent Question Left Unanswered
  • State Elections Results Expose "Limits" of BJP's Nationalist Agenda
  • "Religious Belief" vs. "Rule of Law": Did SC's Ayodhya Verdict Legalise Building of a Theocratic State?
  • What Does Trump's "New Refugee Ban" Mean for America's Immigrants?
  • India Must Change Course as Rajapaksas Return on Sinhala Buddhist Wave
  • The Supreme Court's First Judgment Without an Author
  • Geopolitics in South Asia Renders Millions Stateless
  • "Shakespeare's Vision of the Improbale" Unfolds: Is Modi Today's Macbeth?
  • Sri Lanka Under Rajapaksa: Finding Areas of Mutual Agreement
  • "The Game of Religion is Played by Men": Women Speak From the Margins of Ayodhya Dispute
  • Telangana Ecounter- Failure of Local Police Poses Grave Danger to Democracy
  • The Changing Nature of War and Diplomacy
  • Sri Lanka: Government's Cooperation A "Temporary Phenomenon"?
  • The Role of Corruption in This Season of Revolts
  • New Citizenship Law to a "Brazenly Divisive Agenda"
  • Youth Agitation Against CAA Brings a Historic Generational Shift
  • "Digital Authoritarianism": With Internet Shutdowns Normalised, the Digital Space is Democracy's New Battleground
  • Sri Lanka: The Challenge of Development Amidst Devolution of Power
  • The Political Divides that Split India
  • 'Never Again': Echoes of Nazi Crimes Remain Alive 75 Years After Auschwitz
  • "Legacy of Mutual Suspicion" Plagues Opponents of the Modi Regime
  • "Toxic" India Sliding into an Environmental Abyss
  • Manufacturing Hate: From Anurag Thakur's 'Shoot the Traitors' to Pistol-Bearing Youth's 'Yeh lo Azaadi!'
  • Kejriwal Isn't Communal, But His Desire Not to be Seen Anti-Hindu May Prove Self-Defeating
  • Religion States Won't Oppose US-Taliban Deal
  • Lessons From Pathogens: Coronavirus, A wake Up Call?
  • The Geopolitics of the Covid 19 Pandemic
  • Cold War Begins As Nations Fued Over Coronavirus
  • India Fights Coronavirus...With Scriptures, Morals and Police
  • The Burden of COVID 19
  • Do Israeli Settelemnts in Occupies West Bank Constitute a War Crime ?
  • The Global Debate on COVID-19 Lockdown: Listen to Divergent Scientific Voices or Risk Manipulation by Big Businesses?
  • Sri Lanka's Easter Bombings And The Demand For Justice
  • How India Can Solve the "Catch-22 Situation" of Allowing Migrant Workers to Return Home
  • The Time for Universal Basic Income Has Arrived
  • COVID-19 Crisis Exposes Fatal Weaknesses of 'Strong' Leaders
  • The Pandemic Has Taught Us the Importance of Maintaining an Ecological Balance, Will we Remember IT?
  • The Muslim Elite Has Let Down the Muslim Poor
  • "There is Nothing Nationalist or Non-Nationalist in Reporting"
  • Why WHO Took 3 Months to Declare a Global Pandemic
  • A Political Lockdown That Silences Voices
  • The 'Relief Package' of Online Education May End up "Institutionalising Drop Outs"
  • Can Democracy Survive the Coronavirus?
  • As China Ups the Ante, This is What India Must do...
  • Tackling Racism With Compassionate Reporting-CNN Leads The Way
  • Sri Lanka: Pluralism In Governance Required In The Absence of Parliament
  • Idia's Tactical Non-Solutions To China's Incursions in Ladakh
  • "At The Brink of A New Cold War": Sino-US Ties at a Crossroads
  • In Light of Rising Conservatism, Can The Personal be Political Again?
  • India-China: The Complete Breakdown of Trust, How and Why
  • Rethinking Development After Covid-19
  • The Pandemic Must Transform Our Agriculture
  • Treacherous Road to Make Manu History
  • The 'American Way of War' Is Built On A Foundation of Racism
  • Covid -19 And The Crisis of Education-An Insight
  • Governments That Preach Non-Violence Must Lead By Example
  • New Status of Hagia Sophia Signals The Death Of Secularism
  • Covid 19 and Furthering of Sectarian Agenda in Education
  • Biden's "Conventional" Approach vs Trump's "Whimsical" Handling of Foreign Policy
  • Why Arguments Against Reservation are Flawed
  • Curfew Welcomes One Year of Abrogations in Kashmir
  • Ayodha: What is BJP's Motive For Holding Ram Temple Ceremony Amid Pandemic?
  • New Education Policies of India And Pakistan Will Further Divide, Within and Without
  • Does India's Handling of China Make Sense?
  • Return of the Rajapaksas in Sri Lanka
  • An Independent Supreme Court Is a Must for Democracy
  • Does Rule of Law Trump Tide of Public Opinion?
  • UAE-Israel Deal Accelerating Fragmentation of West Asian Politics
  • Congress And Its "Unprecedented Political Challenge""
  • Does The 20th Amendment Threaten Pluralism in Sri Lanka?
  • Digital Hate, Now A Profitable Commodity
  • Rising Cases, Unemployment: Is India Ignoring Fears Stoked by the Pandemic?
  • Surging Pandemic, Slumping Economy - And the Crisis of Democracy
  • Anxious Leader, Passive Citizens and "Criminalised" Governance
  • Parliamentary Session Merely A "Notice Board" For Government Decisions?
  • The Collapse of Democratic Institutions Under Majoritarian Rule
  • Mughal MUseum Rekindles Question of India's "Slavery""
  • Babri Masjid Demolition Case: Court Ignored Findings of Liberhan Commission
  • As Politics of Hate Takes Over, The Biggest Casualty is Compassion
  • Hathras: The Last Opportunity to Reflect
  • India Joining Ranks of Illiberal Democracies
  • Rising Uncertainties May Lead to Election Chaos in The us