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Congress Loses Plot: CHALNA HAI PAR KAHAN?, By Poonam I Kaushish, 24 May, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 24 May 2016

Congress Loses Plot


By Poonam I Kaushish


When the going gets tough the tough get going. Bluntly, not in the Congress lexicon. Instead, the Party is intent on following the dictum: Bhagteh chor ke langot he sahi. Roughly, you run away to fight another day! But, chalna toh hai, par kahan?


Naturally, the defeat in Assam and Kerala, a distant second to Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and third in Tamil Nadu is a big blow to the Congress and shows that the its decline since the Lok Sabha elections wherein it touched a historic low of 44 seats has not ebbed.


Shockingly, the Party has lost nine Assembly elections and is reduced to ruling in just six States: Karnataka, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya. Even in Bihar, it is a junior partner of the Nitish-Lalu Mahaghatbandhan.


Worse, it enjoys the confidence of a mere six per cent of India’s one billion plus population which is a dampener to its ambitions to replace the Modi Government in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.


On the personal front, the results undoubtedly will further delay Rahul’s elevation as Congress President, already there murmurs for immediate organisational revamp. Not mincing words, senior leader Digvijay Singh has demanded “major surgery.”


Predictably, the post mortem of the results ran its natural course: Faith in the Ma-Beta Sonia-Rahul duo was reaffirmed. While Sonia called for “deep introspection and rededicated the Party to the service of people with greater vigour,” sic, Rahul conveniently foisted blame on the State units, talked of putting correctives in place and said the Party would “work harder”.  Really? Forgetting that as leader, he has to take this hard knock on the chin.


Yet, there is gnawing concern in Party circles over the series of defeats. As it stands Sonia Gandhi has been Congress president for a record 18 years and there is still no clarity. Moreover, the Party is seeped by factionalism. Raising a moot point: How does it aspire to govern the country when it is losing State after State?


Disgruntled leaders, dejected workers and directionless cadres surreptitiously and quietly blame Rahul and his coterie for the ills that afflict the Party. True, post his over 50-day sabbatical, Rahul has become more articulate but has failed to bring about any major organizational change in the Party's central set up since the Lok Sabha defeat.


He is criticized by leaders who left the Party. Confided a senior leader, “When I went to meet him subsequent to getting an appointment after four months, while I talked he continued to play with his dog. In disgust I quit. He only likes to surround himself with blue-blooded people.” A perfect recipe for disaster.

A case in point, Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is instrumental for BJP's victory, left the Party as Rahul refused to see beyond the Gogoi father-son. Any wonder, many Congressmen want Sonia to continue at the helm. There also have been occasional suggestions that Priyanka should be brought in.


Sarcastically commented another senior leader, “Our Yuvaraj wants to build the Party from scratch, but how can he clear the Congress millstones when his own balance sheet shows a nil balance?” Sadly, instead of admitting that Rahul is a non-starter, his coterie keeps making excuses. Further, there is mutual antipathy between them and the old guard.


This is not all. For the first time Congressmen are quietly questioning Sonia’s intentions and policy of protecting-her-son-at-all-cost. “We have to individually and collectively draw appropriate lessons from the unprecedented setback”, said she. Sic


The most unpleasant aspect of all this is the withering of internal democracy. It has made the Party hopelessly dependent on initiative from above and tragically immobile in its absence. Only those who serve loyalty flourish in the “nomination culture”. Being political parasites, they are as loyal as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.


Slowly but surely the Congress finds itself in an existential battle. The Party faces multiple challenges: Effectiveness of Rahul’s style and inner-Party experiments and the negative tag of being a ‘reluctant leader’.  Coupled with the fact that the Congress is today saddled with small time netas who at best can come up with tokenism and “me-tooism”.


Sadly, the system has become so dynastic in mindset that none even contemplate anyone else. This is all the more ironical as there is no paucity of talent within the Party. There are many who have shown their mettle as good leaders. But the big question: Will Congressmen accept them? Could they carry the Party?


What next? Clearly, the Congress needs to boost the morale of its workers, forge unity in its units, bring a generational change of young fighters who put their heart and soul in building the Party and promote new leaders in States. Else it can write off coming to power in 2019.


Rahul will face a complex situation while establishing his leadership. The timid mindset that has developed over the years in the Congress, which attaches a premium to loyalty and sycophancy, will be hard to counter. The darbari culture, which he seems to be allergic to, can't be genuinely replaced without his own credentials coming under scrutiny.


Undeniably, RaGa will have to be less and less radical as he establishes himself. Consequently, in its comatose present state the battle at the hustings next year in Punjab, UP and Gujarat are crucial for him and the Congress. The Party could disintegrate if it fares poorly. Especially as Rahul continues to be seen as 'work in progress'.


The writing is on the wall. As long as Sonia-Rahul’s Congress ostrich like continue to bury there heads in the sand, the down slide will continue. This is not good for India as it is vital there be a strong Opposition to keep the Government of the day in check. The resurgence of the regional Parties also does not portend well for the country given their mohalla mentality and myopic vision.


The time is ripe to rid the Party of deadwood, vested interests and Johnny-come-lately’s. True, nobody has openly asked for Rahul’s head but if he continues his status quoits attitude it could be difficult to quell the storm. To rise again, Rahul will have to improve his ways, establish his leadership and take the Party along with him.

Clearly, RaGa has to think beyond gimmicks, politricking and stop scoring debating points. He needs to evolve a collective style of functioning and win back the trust and confidence of the people in terms of his ability to find solutions to the major problems confronting the country. If the internal discord between the old guard and the baba log continues it could have serious ramifications.


The Congress needs to realize that the occasion is far gone to “introspect”. It must act and act now if it wants to resurrect its crumbling edifice. Politics is a heartless and unforgiving mistress. Else be reduced to a non-entity, tragic for the Grand Dame of Politics.


Consequently, the Party needs to make an assessment of the Ma-Beta’s calibre, else dump them and find a way out of its predicament. Realize there is a political rainbow beyond the Gandhi Family. Else as  Mirza Ghalib succinctly said: Umar Bhar Hum Yun Hi Ghalti Karte Rahe, Dhuul Chehre Pe Thi Aur Hum Aaina Saaf Karte Rahe! ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)





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