Rahul Gandhi formally announced his resignation publicly as the president of the Congress on Wednesday. In a farewell note, posted on Twitter, Mr Gandhi said that he is stepping down, taking responsibility for the party’s loss in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He had, soon after the polls, told the Congress Working Committee of his intent to resign. But the CWC passed a resolution urging him to stay on. Other Congress leaders have tried hard to persuade him to change his mind, but Mr Gandhi has stayed firm.
Opting out of party presidency is Mr Gandhi’s call. But what is disturbing in the note is a reluctance to introspect, candidly, about the reasons for the electoral loss. He seems to suggest that victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a result of (only) misuse of institutions and tremendous financial resources. This newspaper has been critical of the Election Commission’s conduct during the polls. But it is hard to deny that the election outcome reflected the deep faith a large section of the electorate had in Narendra Modi; the success of his welfare schemes and narrative of nationalism; the inability of the opposition to mount a counter narrative that resonated with citizens and its organisational hollowness and outmoded categories of politics. These are the areas the Congress will have to work on if it wants to mount a challenge. A wrong diagnosis will not lead to the correct prescription.
Mr Gandhi can have his assessment of what he sees as the dangers of the BJP’s rule – but then should he not have led from the front? It is also not clear what Mr Gandhi’s role will be in the future party set up. He makes it clear that he will continue to fight for his idea of India as a soldier of the Congress. But given his pre-eminent status – even without a formal office – will it not result in the emergence of multiple power centres in the party? The resignation may have ended one phase in Congress’ turbulent politics, but the next phase may well be more challenging.