New Delhi: In its decline, the Indian National Congress is headed towards death. The Nehru-Gandhis may be the glue for it. But they have not the means to revive and resurrect it. And they will not permit a genuinely elected leadership to take over the party. It is the end of the road for an organization that would be 130 years old next year.

The Indian National Congress was the product of the freedom movement. Almost every single political party or organization of today owes its origin to it. The freedom struggle was likely history’s largest mass movement in one country. At its zenith, it was led by one man, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

This mass movement spread the influence of the Indian National Congress to vast swathes of undivided India. In time, Marxism-Leninism would take root in small but influential pockets; Muhammed Ali Jinnah would break away from the mother organization, and so forth. But the Indian National Congress remained the pre-dominant political formation of the independence struggle, and Gandhi ran it with an iron hand.

Like all political organizations, the Indian National Congress was also bedevilled by rivalrous personal ambitions especially as independence became imminent. Gandhi settled the in-fighting overwhelmingly in favour of one of his proteges, Jawaharlal Nehru. Vallabhbhai Patel had a majority following within the Indian National Congress. But Gandhi favoured Nehru for prime minister in the apprehension that he would quit if his ambition was not met. To justify his decision, Gandhi argued that the West’s liking for Nehru would make the early years of independent India easier. Nehru could as well employ his alleged allures as foreign minister, but Gandhi felt he had to be appeased.

Thus commenced Nehru’s charmed prime ministry. The organization and benefits of a mass freedom movement were located and concentrated almost entirely within the Indian National Congress, of which Gandhi made him supreme leader. The rest is history, as they say, or dynastic history. But particular histories also have closure. The closure of the Nehru-Gandhi dynastic history commenced in Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministry, who could do little good with his brute parliamentary majority. The majority was only nominally for him; it owed to Indira Gandhi’s tragic assassination. Rajiv’s death brought to office one non-dynastic Congress government and two dynastically-powered ones, the contributory factor being the slow rise and sudden death of the Bharatiya Janata Party following the lost 2004 general election. Narendra Modi has changed the dynamic again, and how.

But the important difference from before for the Indian National Congress is that it has no sympathy factor to cash on. The Nehru-Gandhis do not inspire the same reverence. And their sense of entitlement which comes through in the speeches of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka grates on the nerves of Indians. The old organization and structures of the Indian National Congress harking back to the freedom movement have collapsed. The dynasts have no interest in reviving them. They wouldn’t even know how to.

A political organization survives and prospers on the principles of continuity and change. One without the other will as certainly lead to atrophy as day becomes night. For years, this writer pointed to the huge gaps in continuity in the Indian National Congress. The party’s old guard was ruthlessly sidelined. Its two best brains in the 1990s were Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao and Arjun Singh. This writer knew them both slightly. Politics flowed in their blood. People amaze at Amit Shah. Rao and Singh were no less. You had only to sit of an evening and listen to Narasimha Rao to know how astute he was. Arjun Singh spoke little but he had razor-sharp intelligence. It is not so well-known that in later years, they made up, sharing a common disdain for the Nehru-Gandhis. Instead of employing their mega talents, the Nehru-Gandhis discarded and disgraced them. Not just them. Some of the doughtiest political minds of North India went to ruin. Time and again, this writer pointed to the dangers to the Indian National Congress from the neglect of the old guard, but who cared?

From the perspective of 10 Janpath, Ahmed Patel, Motilal Vora, Janardhan Dwivedi, etc, constituted the epitome of political wizardry. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, a scion of very limited intelligence (a common trait among scions), surrounded himself with aides his age or younger who had no clue about India, but found favour on account of their foreign degrees and recognizable family names. To add to the calamity was Digvijay Singh, who as Rahul Gandhi’s earliest tutor thoroughly misguided him. It is another matter that the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister was none-too-kind in his private estimation of his princely pupil. The result is that the Indian National Congress is down to its lowest tally of 44 Lok Sabha seats.

Could Priyanka Vadra make a magical difference to the party’s prospects? Not a chance. Who the television media props up or fascinates about (and there are other examples of them) usually has low traction with voters. This election has shown this repeatedly and spectacularly. The Nehru-Gandhis have to revive the Indian National Congress to the strength where Gandhi bequeathed it to Nehru with the plea to shut it down. That denouement has been reached. In the one or two terms of Narendra Modi, the Indian National Congress will slip to third or fourth place among the major parties. Much of India will shed no tears for it.

Editor’s note: Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy is India’s foremost living writer. His novel, Samskara, is a literary masterpiece. The greatness of a country derives from its creative geniuses, which includes writers. Russia wouldn’t be the same without Fyodor Dostoevsky, the writer’s writer. Could anyone visualize the Blitz without remembering Graham Greene? Writers are rare. They must be treasured and honoured. The incoming Narendra Modi government should secure and preserve Ananthamurthy’s constitutional freedom of expression and political action.