Is congress better than bjp

The Congress Party: Social Democracy or Family Business?

Since its unexpected victory in the 2004 general election, Congress has led two coalition governments. The party is now, ten years later, in a deep crisis. After the heavy defeats in the most recent state elections at the end of 2013 in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi, Congress is entering the upcoming general election with a major handicap.

The country is already in the pre-election campaign. How will the dividing lines between the parties run and along which major issues will they run? Corruption, inflation, unemployment, “communalism” and good governance will certainly dominate the issues in the election campaign.

Will there be some sort of presidential clash between Narendra Modi, the top candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People's Party) and challenger to the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and the Rahul Gandhi-led congress? Can other parties and personalities play a significant role in the election campaign to adequately reflect the diversity of India? The Congress Party and the Hindu nationalist BJP are so far the only Indian parties that have a national reach. However, this has so far been limited, especially in the case of the BJP, and does not include all parts of the country. All other parties have at best a very limited regional or, as a rule, only a national presence.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, "Simple Citizen's Party"), founded in 2012 and currently ruling in Delhi, will run in the 2014 general election. It could significantly change the previous conditions, especially in the urban and semi-urban constituencies. The mantra of the "greatest democracy in the world" often prevents a realistic view of the Indian political landscape. Indian parties are very different from those in Europe. They have practically no internal party democracy and are led by a kind of “political generals”. There are around 120 political dynasties or political families across the country.

Elections are also an expensive affair, with an estimated billions of euros each going into the general election in 2004 and 2009. A not inconsiderable part of it comes from illegal hawala money of the political class, which among other things comes from (foreign) transactions with so-called kickbacks (bribes), among other things. in the case of weapons imports. This reveals the plutocratic and sometimes also criminal component of quite a few actors in Indian democracy. Former cabinet secretary T. S. R. Subramanian called "politics, the greatest private business" on a television program. The majority of politicians do not want reforms and are not interested in change.

Political instability and fragmentation

The dominance of the Congress Party, which ruled alone for decades after independence, was broken in the House of Commons elections in 1989 and 1996 at the latest. A total of six general election between 1989 and 2004 - normally enough for a period of 30 years - document the full extent of political instability at that time. Several minority governments, the creeping decline of Congress, the rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP, strengthened regional parties and an obvious fragmentation of the parliament with in some cases over 40 parties led to the coalition governments of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA ). Since 2004, Congress has led the coalition governments UPA-I and II, but currently governs only with changing majorities through external support.

A brief review: the checkered history of the INC

The Indian National Congress (INC), founded in 1885, is the oldest Indian party and naturally looks back on diverse transformations in its history. This spearhead of the Indian independence movement counted such outstanding names as Mahatma Gandhi, the advocate of nonviolence, his opponent Subhas Chandra Bose, who with his Indian National Army (INA) in alliance with Japan and Hitler's Germany were the British colonial rulers Fought violence, but so did Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution and almost "godlike" revered leader of the "untouchables" who see themselves today as Dalits (oppressed).

In addition, there are prominent politicians such as Jawaharlal Nehru, India's outstanding and visionary first prime minister from 1947 to 1963, the education politician Maulana Azad and Sardar Patel, India's first interior minister, who is also often referred to as the "Indian Bismarck" because he had an iron hand after independence 1947 forged the unity of the Indian Union. The old Gandhian Morarji Desai broke the monopoly of rule of the Congress, which had been taken for granted until then, in 1977, despite the first setbacks in 1967. As leader of a secession from Congress and an alliance of socialists, peasant leaders and Hindu nationalists, he took over after the end of Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency (Emergency, 1975-77) so disastrous for Indian democracy, the office of Prime Minister. In 1980, however, the Janata Party had to surrender power back to the "iron lady", who celebrated a comeback as prime minister - previously ruling from 1969 to 1977 - until she was murdered in 1984.

Her son Rajiv Gandhi, who ruled between 1984 and 1989, also belongs to the legacy of this great and historic political collection movement, which, however, in times of deep socio-political crisis is now in danger of permanently losing its once outstanding special position in Indian politics. Born in Italy, Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv Gandhi, is now an experienced, if not always successful, campaigner. It continues the legacy of the Nehru / Gandhi dynasty. The President of Congress is considered to be the "glue" that holds the party, which is by no means on secure feet, together and has so far saved it from disintegrating into individual components. She is now trying to pass the baton on to her son Rahul Gandhi, who will lead his party's 2014 election campaign as Vice President of Congress. A project that, given the imponderables of Indian domestic politics, cannot be regarded as secure.

The Congress ideology

The social and economic policy objectives (democracy, socialism, secularism), originally inspired by Fabian Socialism and predominantly formulated by Jawaharlal Nehru, increasingly concealed the true interests of a democratically legitimized post-colonial state class. These interests rejected fundamental social and land reforms. The state supported the large and medium-sized peasants, who have been increasingly represented in parliaments since the 1990s, through subsidies. Through the public sector, sections of the political class, top officials and functionaries of party-political unions were able to acquire privileges due to an unmistakable nepotism.

"Secularism", d. H. The equality of religions was repeatedly brought into play by the congress as a trademark of its form of rule and socio-political convictions in the disputes with the BJP. For its part, the BJP accused Congress of creating a division of the population along religious lines, especially between Hindus and Muslims. For its part, Congress accused the BJP of discriminating against Muslims.

As part of the license system (License Raj), a strong public sector and private companies were shielded from international competition. This policy ended in 1991 in the financial oath of disclosure. As a result of the liberalization policy and opening up to foreign investors decided afterwards under Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao (1991-96) and his Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Congress also verbally turned away from "socialism" and recognized the primacy of the private sector of the economy.

The electorate

Upper castes, albeit very reduced especially in northern India, a traditional but dwindling support from the disadvantaged original population called Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes, ST's) and the lower caste groups of the "untouchables" (Scheduled Castes, SC's), as well as Muslims and Christians make up the great base of the Congressional electorate. However, the congress party no longer wins disproportionately high seats in the constituencies reserved for SC‘s and ST‘s, as it has for many decades. The party leadership has recognized that it supports the interests of smallholders, landless farm workers, SC‘s, ST‘s and religious minorities, among others. through employment programs and social measures, in order to prevent further erosion of their social base. In 2004 and increasingly in 2009, the congress was able to gain a great deal of support from the urban middle class. This appears to be inter alia. to change fundamentally through the appearance of the AAP, which withdrew the electorate, especially from Congress, but also from the BJP in the recent state elections in Delhi.

The so-called "High Command", i. H. De facto Sonia and her son Rahul Gandhi, to a certain extent also daughter Priyanka, as well as a very small internal circle, has led to an over-centralization within the Congress, accompanied by a clique surrounding the Gandhi, and thus to a largely lack of strong political personalities in the individual states . The "family business" of the Gandhi dynasty in its current form is on the one hand dysfunctional, on the other hand a congress without this dynasty threatens to break up into its individual components, similar to the Indian socialists once did. It therefore takes a lot of instinct to make the inner-party democratization process sought by Rahul Gandhi, which could also potentially be called into question, a reality in the foreseeable future.

What does the congress stand for today?

Will the Congress, increasingly led by Rahul Gandhi, have the strength to reinvent itself or is the existing establishment of the Congress in danger of nipping all reform attempts in the bud? Rahul Gandhi has declared the internal democratization of the party as well as more participation of its base to be his concern and has accompanied this process for years in the youth and student organizations of the congress.

As a rule, however, only sons and daughters from political families get into leading positions. The upcoming election campaign, with a likely defeat for Congress, may enable Rahul Gandhi to largely liberate the party from the existing establishment and initiate a generation change with new goals and methods. Rahul Gandhi has also declared war on corruption: not an easy undertaking in view of the serious corruption cases within Congress and the coalition government he leads.

The years 2009 to 2014 in retrospect

The second legislative term under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh got off to a promising start with Congress doing very well with 206 seats in the 2009 election. The economy recorded high growth rates, which have only flattened out in recent years, not only as a result of the international financial crisis but also as a result of factors specific to India.

However, massive scandals, the origins of which can be traced back in part to the UPA 1 period, rocked the government. The so-called 2G scandal, i. H. the issuing of licenses to companies in the telecommunications sector, the contracts for the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the issuing of licenses for coal mining (coal gate) are just some of the very costly examples of corruption at the highest political level. A major cause of these scandals is the unregulated party funding, which led to the illegal enrichment of the political class and forms of promotion of so-called "crony capitalism" (buddy capitalism).

On the other hand, Congress pushed through laws such as the right to education and the right to food, sometimes in a critical dispute with its own government, in order to win the support of the marginalized and those living below and just above the poverty line. The National Advisory Council led by Sonia Gandhi, which practically represented a kind of parallel power structure to the government, was largely responsible for these rather populist initiatives.

The most recent passage of a Lokpal law, which aims to intensify the fight against corruption and was initiated by the prominent anti-corruption movement since 2011, was ultimately passed largely at the insistence of Rahul Gandhi.

Defeats in state elections

The causes of the severe defeats in the recent state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi are diverse. The good government records of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh prompted voters to confirm their governments for the third time in a row. Despite the congress winning votes, the BJP also gained there. In Rajasthan, the BJP gained around 12 percent of the votes, which was mainly due to the inefficiency and scandals of the previous Congress government. Even relatively late welfare programs did not change the vote of the voters.

The BJP also benefited from the “anti-incumbency” factor vis-à-vis the central government, not least because of the high food inflation and corruption in recent years. The “Modi factor”, especially in Rajasthan, certainly also contributed to the BJP's successes, as the factions within the congressional associations that sometimes oppose each other show.

In the state capital Delhi, the appearance of the AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal decimated the congress with only eight mandates to almost insignificance. However, despite six appearances by Modi, the AAP prevented the BJP from gaining votes. Despite gaining mandates, the BJP even lost around 2 percent of its votes compared to 2008.


Who are the main adversaries among the parties, who are their main target groups? Personalities, seat and coalition agreements are, in addition to an extraordinarily high financial outlay, apart from not too pronounced ideological positions, important factors in determining the winner under the conditions of a pure majority vote based on the British model. At the moment, it looks like Congress’s chances of a return to power seem extremely slim or downright impossible. Finance Minister Chidambaran sees Congress in an outsider role. The BJP is currently entering the race as a favorite with its very few allies. The future government could also provide a “third force” with external support. However, it cannot be completely ruled out that this picture could change. The few months until the general election is a long time in Indian politics.

The Aam Aadmi Party is likely to play a not insignificant role in this context. It is primarily aimed at the discontented urban middle classes who, after retiring from Indian politics, are now getting involved again with their ideas. However, AAP also received a lot of support from the lower classes and slum dwellers. If the minority government led by Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi sticks together and shows some positive results in its government work, it could become an all-Indian political force, mainly by drawing votes from both Congress and the BJP. However, there are increasing contradictions within the AAP and it remains to be seen whether it can maintain its original vigor.

European ideologies and their mutual exclusions are of limited use in India. “Left” and “right” are hardly sustainable as terms. The generation of Indian socialists has died out. There is no really declared social democratic party, although in view of the basic socio-economic conditions, i.a. with widespread poverty, there is certainly another “social-democratic space”.

The congress sees itself ideologically as a party “to the left” of the center of Indian politics, which at least verbally represents the concerns of disadvantaged sections of the population. A few years ago the party organized an international conference in which the question was raised whether the congress represented or could form a kind of Indian social democracy.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, member of the House of Lords and former cabinet minister, believes, however, that many politicians in Congress are only pursuing their own material interests, are responsible for the corruption and deviate significantly from the party's original goals and values. The writer Chetan Bhagat demands of Gandhi that he must "let the heads roll of those who have run down Congress."

Will Rahul Gandhi be able to free himself from the pronounced "anti-incumbency" factor against Congress and the few allied parties in the time available before the elections and to develop a plausible new vision for the near future? ? Or does the party first have to go through a phase of opposition in order to tackle the necessary internal party reforms and develop new programmatic priorities?

Rahul Gandhi’s speech to the delegates of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on January 17, 2014 revealed a new, much more aggressive style with even previously invisible charismatic elements. Observers called it a "mixture of Kejriwal and Modi."

Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia referred to the “model of inclusive growth” propagated by Rahul Gandhi, which, according to Gandhi, “must deal with the broad layers above the poverty line and below the middle class.” Scindia underlined Gandhi's strong will, the existing one To fundamentally change the system.

Whether this rhetoric, accompanied by a nationwide advertising campaign about the successes of Congress and the UPA 2 government, will really turn things around can only be answered by the voters. Prashant Bhushan, one of the leading AAP leaders, does not see Congress as a serious contender for power. "The population is not ready to forgive Congress."

Sonia Gandhi's deliberate refusal to declare her son a candidate for the office of prime minister is intended on the one hand to avoid falling into the trap of a presidential and then presumably unequal dispute between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. This decision also expresses the intention to be more open to alliances after the election - this can also mean a so-called “third force” with external support from Congress - in order to avoid Narendra Modi as prime minister at all costs.

What is certain is that the oldest Indian party is no longer up-to-date in its current form. It needs a fundamental renewal in order to be able to continue to be a decisive player in a rapidly changing India with its immense challenges.

Further articles, interviews, analyzes as well as studies and publications on India in the election year 2014 in our dossier:
"India in the Election Year - New beginnings or stagnation?".