For almost 100 years, generations of the Nehru-Gandhi family have led the Indian National Congress Party – is this dynasty coming to an end?
This question pre-occupies Indian commentators as Rahul Gandhi (pictured above) quit after leading the party to a disastrous 2019 election loss to Narendra Modi.
The modern Indian electorate is aspirational and finds little to like in the conservative and history obsessed Congress Party.
One key element of becoming a leader is that you are driven to do it, that becoming leader is your life’s passion. Rahul Gandhi never convinced in this – he looked like a man forced to run because of the dynasty.
In 1919, Motilal Nehru (pictured below) became the president of India’s oldest party, the Indian National Congress. Rahul was his great-great-grandson.
This dynasty goes from Motilal Nehru to his son Jawaharlal Nehru (independent India’s first Prime Minister), and then to Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi (who had married a man named Feroze Gandhi, and since then the dynasty has been called the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty), and her two sons, Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. After Rajiv Gandhi was murdered by a Tamil terrorist in 1991, the party eventually convinced his Italian wife, Sonia Gandhi (born Sonia Maino), to take over the steering wheel. Sonia brought into Indian politics her two children: Rahul and Priyanka, making them the fifth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family line within the party leadership.
Sonia Gandhi returns as fill in leader of the Congress Party as it contemplates the future
Many say Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (pictured below) has all the leadership qualities Rahul lacked, and could succeed to the leadership.
The huge victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has only underlined how the BJP has replaced the Congress as “India’s natural party of government”.
Congress has been decimated, with only 52 (up 8) national parliamentary seats compared with the BJP’s 303 (up 21) and none from 19 of the country’s 36 states and territories. It is estimated that the BJP won 92 per cent of contests with a Congress candidate and only 52 per cent of direct contests with other parties.
“The Congress Party must radically transform itself,” Rahul Gandhi wrote in his resignation letter. The question is – can it look beyond the dynasty to find a new, modern leader and political brand?