New Delhi: There is serious rift within the Nehru-Gandhi family on Rahul Gandhi’s failed leadership of the Congress party. To write of this on Jawaharlal Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary seems unseasonable but can scarcely be helped. The battlelines are drawn with Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra on one side arrayed against mother Sonia and brother Rahul. Insiders say that Priyanka herself is behind the “Priyanka lao, Congress bachao” campaign. Delicacy prevents more graphic disclosures.

In going against her mother and brother, Priyanka apparently is increasingly taking on the traits of her late grandmother, Indira Gandhi, who she admires and tries to emulate, down to dressing style on campaigns. Those that keep a watch on things on the inside say that Priyanka was the force behind Rahul Gandhi but is disappointed at his serial failures. Ambitious for herself now, she believes she can turn around the Congress; but Sonia Gandhi is not ready to drop Rahul Gandhi.

On both sides of the divided dynasty, there are seemingly insurmountable problems. Robert Vadra, Priyanka’s husband, is problem number 1. He represents the great chink of the Nehru-Gandhi family. In nearly every middle-class drawing room across the country, Vadra is the reviled centrepiece of conversation. His idiotic gymming, dubious companies and dodgy wealth are becoming solid gibbets to hang the Nehru-Gandhis from. Rather than keep low, this specimen of all brawn, zero brains relishes poking a finger at enraged public opinion.

Indira Gandhi dumped Feroze and her political career took a new trajectory. History is not about to repeat itself but Robert Vadra represents a considerable liability for his wife. Whether that has entered Sonia Gandhi’s calculations to deny Priyanka political pre-eminence at the cost of her son is unclear; in any event, she is not willing to make a sacrifice of Rahul Gandhi.

Unfortunately for her, Rahul Gandhi is not taking off. At the anniversary celebration of Nehru, the scion made tired references to secularism, a jaded and discredited ideology. The mother and son accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of divisiveness even as he grows in popularity among all sections of people, including minorities. Now the party plans to rebuild itself upon Nehruvianism, a project doomed to failure.

The problem of the Nehru-Gandhis is that they don’t have ideas. Ideas are rooted unlike ideologies. Ideas don’t demand loyalties. But because they do not discriminate, they bring unity and following. The secret of Narendra Modi’s success is that he dabbles with ideas. Swachh Bharat is an idea; Make in India is another. He is not speaking of nationalism, Hindutva, conservatism, and so on. He has brought respect to safai karamcharis, teachers, soldiers and scientists. When have the Nehru-Gandhis honoured anyone unless it is they?

Priyanka Gandhi, of course, is dead wrong; she has no magic wand to revive the Indian National Congress. The Indian National Congress as it was conceived during the freedom struggle is dead. It started dying after Sardar Patel’s death gave a free run to Nehru to prop up the dynasty. The Indian National Congress is all and solely about money. You pay to get a Congress ticket, with a cut for you-know-who. The Nehru-Gandhis are basically selling their equity; since they have done it all along, the voters find it increasingly valueless.

How can Priyanka change any of this? She, perhaps, believes she can rework the Nehru-Gandhi magic; no longer. The Nehru-Gandhis are past their sell-by date. The Indian National Congress has hopes if it democratizes itself genuinely on the lines of the long-enduring political parties of the West; tied to the Nehru-Gandhis, it is sunk. The split within the Nehru-Gandhi family presents it with an all-or-nothing situation of unprecedented opportunities and epochal catastrophe should it fail to grab them.

Editor’s note: The Bharatiya Janata Party could have done better than the shabby way it won the confidence vote in the Maharashtra Assembly. The Shiv Sena is an unreliable and greedy ally but the BJP has to reach an accommodation with it to run the government stably and productively for five years. It must bow to the tyranny of numbers whether or not it likes it.