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Rahul Debut’s At Congress Session:CHALNA HAI, CHALNA HAI, PAR KAHAN?, by PI Kaushish,28 Jan 06 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 28 January 2006

Rahul Debut’s At Congress Session


By Poonam I Kaushish

It was billed as the greatest political extravaganza of the new year. A feel good show intended to instill a new vigour and vitality in the Grand Old Party. A lesson in political ABC --- aggression, bounce and confidence --- to achieve greater heights. Alas, all plans went phut. Pricked by scams galore. Which popped up like the proverbial bad penny, leaving the party more deflated than ever.

How else should one describe the 82nd three-day Congress plenary held at the Gachibowli stadium (renamed Rajiv Nagar) in Hyderabad on 2l-23 January last? Its title –Ateet Ki Neev, Bhavishya Ka Nirman, Nayi Zimadari (Building a future on the foundations of the past is the new responsibility) – could not have been more misleading.

Held as it was under the shadow of the Volcker and Quottrochi scandals, the looming crisis in neighbouring Karnataka where its Government was tottering on its last legs, and skirmishes with the Left on crucial policy matters. But our Congress netagan  typically chose to brush everything under the carpet. Refusing to see the writing on the wall, they continued yet another charade in wishful thinking --- without a new disha and without a fresh sandesh.

Before you read me wrong, this is not to detract from the positive aspects of the session. One, it injected the aphrodisiac called power among the 15,000 delegates who assembled at the Rajiv Nagar, aimed at steering a new direction, sense of consolidation and organizational renewal. Two, boasting of flawless arrangements by the hosts, headed by Congress Chief Minister Rajashekhar Reddy, it proved that when it sets it’s heart on delivering, none can do it better than the Congress. Proved by the 150 computers in the media centre. Three, it lined up a Gen Next leaders, headed by Rahul, who are willing to assert and call a spade a spade.   

Promises were a plenty. So also the pledges. There was a khichri of Nehruvian socialism (reform with a human face) and Manmohanic liberalization. There was lots and lots of secularism without any clue about how it could be translated it into votes. A huge typical Congress tamasha which failed to find answers to the dilemmas facing the party. It refused to address the ticklish issues of striking a balance between its stand on alliances and coalitions and the need to expand its organization and social base in the states ruled by its allies or other opposition parties. What is more, how to fulfil its “coalition dharma”, check corruption, maintain austerity and build bridges between the party and the government.

The political resolution which recognized the inevitability of coalition governments, terming them as ‘a political reality’ at least for the next few years, put the onus for the successful run of such arrangements on its partners. It talked of “collective responsibility.” Asserted Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee at a media briefing, “ Coalitions are a give and take.   Our partners should be ready to give so that all Indians are able to take.  The alternative is too dangerous to even countenance”

The dichotomy was so obvious in the document. “The discipline of coalition politics was honestly and strenuously followed by the Congress from that day (the day it accepted the reality), making the UPA possible and successful.”  Implicit was the message that while the party had followed the dharma, the partners had not. The resolution is almost certain to be contested by the alliance partners as the party shares power with other outfits in many states.  Coalitions in these states have had had their own share of troubles, thanks in no small measure to the attitude displayed by the Congress.

As the crisis in Karnataka has shown, the Congress has none to blame but itself. On the sidelines of the session, senior Congress leaders confided that Dharam Singh was basically to blame. Emboldened by the outcome of the panchayat elections, the state unit ill-advisedly needled the JD(S) and its President HD Deve Gowda. And when the former Prime Minister rushed to Delhi to hold talks with Sonia Gandhi, the latter refused him an audience.

In Andhra Pradesh, the TRS is up in arms against the Grand Dame for its refusal to take any steps towards the fulfillment of its long-standing demands for the creation of a separate state of Telangana. And in Maharashtra, the Congress is engaged in a behind-the scenes feud with the NCP after it overtook the latter in terms of numerical strength in the state assembly.

Similarly, even while the Party exhorts its workers to strive hard to revive the party’s fortunes in the states where its base has been eroded or has a negligible presence, it is tempered with the realization that it cannot declare open war on partners who have grown at its expense. Like the RLD and Jan Shakti in Bihar and the Samajwadi and BSP in UP. Also, with the Left parties being the UPA Government’s ‘life-line’, it cannot afford to get on its wrong side. Notwithstanding the fact that it has gone to considerable pains to dispel speculations about friendly fights in the forthcoming elections in Kerala and West Bengal – States where the Left is directly pitted against the Congress.

Significantly, the Congress maa-beta duo Sonia and Rahul both made a forceful pitch for waging a “long and forceful war to recover ground in the Hindu heartland”. Realizing that they would be trapped in the quagmire of playing second fiddle to regional players in unless they got their act together in the vital states of UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh which account for nearly 200 Lok Sabha seats, Sonia made no bones about the fact that she was no longer satisfied with the Party’s space in coalition politics and extolled her partymen to take “the commanding heights of politics again”.

Undoubtedly both she and Rahul succinctly diagnosed the problem but could not come up with convincing answers to galvanize the comatose units. Specially, against the backdrop of the Party’s shrinking vote nation-wide. Crippled as it with rank indiscipline within. Big, small and petty leaders are all pulling in different directions. In the last three years alone the Party has changed its PCC chief thrice in UP. Not only that. Three top guns “refused” to attend the session. Uttarkhand Chief Minister N.D. Tiwari (dropped from the CWC) and his counter part in Himachal, Vir Bhadra Singh. Bengal leader Ghani Khan Chowdhary who is reportedly keen to join Trinamool’s Mamata. There were loud whispers of discontent about the recent AICC reshuffle specially the reconstitution of the CWC which now has been packed with “non-entities”. How then one wonders will the party recapture its lost glory?

That sycophancy reigns supreme was so evident when speaker-after-speaker eulogized, in glowing terms, the sacrifices made by the Nehru-Gandhi family and, in particular, Sonia Gandhi. Never mind Sonia making amply clear at the outset itself that she did not want the speakers to waste time eulogizing her or Rahul. Even before Rahul had stepped into the city, banners converting his name into an acronym (R-reformist, A-accomplished, H-honest, U-upcoming, L-leadership) had sprung up all over.

Speakers continued to unabashedly croon, “The entire country is looking towards Rahul… Rahul aana, is desh ko aage le jana, (please take the country forward), Rahul lao, Desh bachao.” Slogans were vociferously raised for him to join the CWC. In his maiden address at the session, the Gandhi scion was a picture of calm and composure as he read out from a prepared text, yet never failing to connect.  His speech, which came in the form of an intervention during the discussion on the political resolution, was heard with rapt attention by the delegates.

He posed some soul-searching, posing some uncomfortable, yet real, questions – Why is that the Congress, which, at one point of time, was so strong in the Hindi heartland, has become so weak?  What should be the mantra to re-charge the party apparatus in north India? But there were no answers. True he did not set the Krishna on fire. But the young man minced no words that he meant business. Whether he really means business and can deliver time alone will tell.

In sum, even as Sonia offered the moon and the stars to project a Congress rainbow on India’s future political horizon and every Congressmen present lapped it up, the reality was different. In fact, harsh. Barely had the session ended in a grand finale of a new sankalp the party had mud all over its face. What with the Supreme Court severely indicting Bihar Governor Buta Singh as well as the Central Government and appropriately casting doubts, how so ever politely, about the President’s conduct.  Raising a moot point: How will the Congress fare in its new tryst with destiny. Chalna hai, chalna hai aur chalna hai. But where? ---INFA

 (Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)










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