Intro: The Congress has two options. Either, the party can examine itself honestly. Or the Nehru-Gandhi leader of 2019 can commission yet another Antony Report.
Sonia Gandhi commissioned AK Antony to investigate the Congress's failures in various Vidhan Sabha polls. Who knows on which shelf in Congress headquarters that is gathering dust?
Back then Congress spokespersons argued that local issues carry greater weight in state elections, so no blame fell upon the national leadership. By the same logic, who, or what, should take responsibility for the awful drubbing received by the party in the recent Lok Sabha elections, where the Congress could not touch the double-digit mark in a single state?
An honest review and Antony is above all an honest man — should focus on three specific areas that cost the Congress, questions about leadership, questions about corruption, and questions about governance.
Have I read the 2014 model of the Antony Report? No, it has been seen only by its author and by Sonia Gandhi. So how do we know that questions about Rahul Gandhi's leadership were brushed under the carpet?
On 15 August, reporters quizzed Antony whether the Congress was losing faith in Rahul Gandhi. His precise words were, “Such things are being spread by mischievous people who want to weaken the party. The reasons for the Congress defeat were something else.”
Antony and I have been friends for over half a century and I know the man does not tell lies. The problem is that what he believes to be the truth might not actually be true. He may believe that India needs the Congress, and that the Congress in turn needs the Nehru-Gandhi family, but that does not mean that India shares those articles of faith.
Does the Congress need the Nehru-Gandhis? That may be based on Antony's own memory of what happened just after the Emergency. The Congress did not rebuild itself after K Brahmananda Reddy, then president, expelled Indira Gandhi, it broke apart.
Those years left Antony believing that the Nehru-Gandhi clan is the cement that holds the Congress mosaic together. Questioning Rahul Gandhi shakes this tenet, which means that the Antony Report cannot bring up the issue of leadership. But what about the questions asked about corruption and governance? It may be possible, though difficult, to reclaim land and recover loot. But reversing the damage of the Dr Manmohan Singh years is a greater problem.
The 'Economist Prime Minister' sat silently while his party and ministry went on a tax-and-spend spree, creating a mountain of debt. He failed, spectacularly so, to curb inflation. And he surrendered, tamely, to the fashionable theories patronised by Sonia Gandhi, delaying decisions until the machinery of government ground to a halt.
Dr Singh risked his government in 2008 for Nuclear Energy, which was declared unsafe and reached a shrill crescendo after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. How was India supposed to meet its energy needs then?
Simply put too much costs to generate electricity through solar power. It is viable only if governments pass on the cost to consumers, or if producers are offered massive subsidies (as China does). The first is political suicide, and the second is impossible because the Dr Singh years left India with no money.
Dr Singh could not blame coalition partners for the Coal Scam; the ministry was in the hands of the Congress, and at the time that suspicious allotments were made the Coal Minister was Singh himself. Nothing has explained the allegations against the Nehru-Gandhis, from reports about Robert Vadra's land dealings in Haryana and in Rajasthan to the manner in which Sonia Gandhi and her son supposedly grabbed real estate in Delhi in the 'National Herald' case.
Leadership of the party is an internal issue for the Congress; the mistakes made by Sonia Gandhi and Dr Singh afflict us all. They need to be discussed by the Congress. The Congress has two options. The party can examine itself honestly. Or the Nehru-Gandhi leader of 2019 can commission yet another Antony Report.
-TVR Shenoy (The writer is a senior columnist)