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Mihir Sharma

Could India Become a One-Party State?

With Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as Congress president, the world’s biggest democracy may lose any effective national opposition. 

Gandhi was a failure but he wasn’t the problem. 

Gandhi was a failure but he wasn’t the problem. 

Photographer: Sajjad Hussain/AFP

In most democracies, a politician who has just led his or her party to a crushing defeat steps aside. In the world’s largest democracy, however, parties are often structured around individuals or families. If they go, so does the party.

That’s one reason why it is so surprising that Rahul Gandhi quit as president of the Indian National Congress party after it was humiliated, for the second time in as many nationwide elections, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Gandhi’s mother, father, grandmother, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather were all Congress presidents. For almost half a century, the Congress has had few power centers outside the Nehru-Gandhi family.