David Mulford on ‘Congress Culture’ (2006)

David Mulford, the US ambassador to India from 2004 to 2006, sent a piercing assessment of India’s political situation, including a description of the ‘sycophancy’ inside the Congress Party.

The 2006 assessment was sent soon after the Supreme Court quashed a move by former Congress leader and then Bihar Governor Buta Singh to dismiss an NDA government from Bihar ‘to preempt’ horse-trading of MPs.

He said that over-reliance of Gandhis and the resulting absence of a ‘second rung’ leadership will prove costly to the party as it tries to rebuild its base across the country.

“Inside the party, there is an over-reliance on the Gandhi brand to solve all problems. The insistence on outward displays of loyalty to the Gandhis has prevented the emergence of a strong and credible second tier leadership capable of mounting effective state-wide campaigns in crucial states like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

“The coterie surrounding the Gandhis believe that public loyalty to ‘Madam’ gives them a license to backbite and squabble behind the scenes,” Mulford noted in 2006.

He also upheld the behaviour of party workers at an January 2006 leadership session in Hyderabad as an example of the inherent weaknesses in its party structure and culture

“From the outset, the 10,000 party leaders and workers went to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate their sycophantic loyalty to the Gandhi family. Although Sonia Gandhi requested that such demonstrations be held to a minimum, participants staged disruptive demonstrations demanding that the party induct Rahul Gandhi into the leadership and provide him a space on the podium,” he noted.