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Priorities before Congress after stunning assembly results

Saturday, March 18, 2017
By Prakash Bal Joshi

High time for Congress to make some comprehensive changes

Punjab is the only saviour for the Congress Party which lost opportunities presented in fractured mandates in Goa and Manipur as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quicker in seizing initiative. However, the Congress is at loss over results in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP established its edge over other regional parties including Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

With successive dwindling of vote share in assembly elections held after decisive defeat in year 2014 during general elections, the Congress is at loss over how to retain its hold over voters in regions where it has lost its traditional support base of voters. The party which believes in dynastic rule is totally depending on Nehru Gandhi family for leadership. Due to heavy loss the blame game has begun by some muffled voices but it would not reach  the top.

Little chance of buck stopping at Rahul
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has described it as a downside in UP for the party and reminded that elections are managed by the local level leaders who look after every aspect of the elections. Knowing the Congress Party and its internal processes, there is very little possibility of the buck stopping at Rahul.

This is the time when the Congress Party needs to sit up and take serious note of changed political situation in the country. Slowly but steadily, the BJP has occupied its position as the main national political party. The Congress will have to sit-up and engage itself in brain storming session to find out what went wrong and what are its priorities post UP elections for revival and consolidation of its position in the country.

Though not very visible, some fault lines have emerged in the party following stunning defeat in UP and Uttarakhand. Some are even questioning need to go along the Samajwadi Party without considering its impact on party’s fortune. The SP leaders are blaming the Congress for not working hard for the coalition while the Congress leaders feel it led to wrong kind of social engineering.  With very little democracy left at the local level, sycophancy is widespread in the party at various levels. Some feel that this kind of sycophancy ultimately led to the total eclipse of the party as leaders received only good reviews and responses while ground reality was totally different.

AICC secretary and former Mumbai MP Priya Dutt is all for rebuilding the party organisation from the ground level. She feels that the party suffered mainly due to the “auto immune disease”. She hit out at coterie of 12 people who virtually took all the major decisions for the party and had no accountability.

Former union tribal affairs and panchayat raj minister Kishore Chandra Deo is one more such leader who has raised some pertinent issues related to the downfall of the party. He also blamed the coterie surrounding Rahul Gandhi who cling to him by hook or crook for their own survival. Many of these leaders have developed likes and dislikes coming in the way of taking major decisions and affecting the party. These people hoodwink others by rotating themselves from one post to another but ensuring that they keep control of the party and party leaders. These leaders have been AICC general secretaries in charge of one or the other state Congress committees and their mistakes have led to downfall of the party in these states and later at the national level. Former union law minister Ashwini Kumar has also echoed similar views. They said that the party must look beyond Rahul and find solution otherwise it will be difficult to stage a comeback.

Unlike in Indira Gandhi’s days when she used to take a personal review and punish all these kinds of leaders if they fail to perform and replace them with new set of people who had performed well in their respective states. The question they are asking is why Rahul who knows about such failings of these coterie had failed to take action. The Congress Party’s very relevance is at stake and unless the party takes decisions on priority basis, the credibility of the party will suffer immensely.

Sonia Gandhi got immediate acceptance as she could bring back the party to power despite defeat at the electoral front. However, the transition is not taking place with much ease. Rahul is waiting in the wings for quite a long time. Though he was pushed to become vice president, people know that ultimately it is Sonia who is taking final call on most of the issues. The coterie which surrounds Sonia knows that their days will be numbered once Rahul takes over. He has been kept hanging as vice president for a long time keeping uncertainty over his final takeover of the party. Some of the senior leaders in the party are also blame two power centres within the party one trying to dominate over other. It is not Sonia or Rahul, but those creating coterie around them.

 There is no chance of replacing Rahul as the party has been following dynastic rule for too long. Even any talk of considering someone else will be considered as anti-party and shunned by most. They also fear that such talk may damage the party beyond repair.

Priorities not about top echelon
The priorities before the party is not merely replacing A with B and not confined to the top echelon of the party. The party is waiting for overhaul of the organisational set up at national, regional, district and block level. The party has to put the processes in tune with the changing times and allow natural leadership to come up at various levels by allowing democratic norms. Too much of use of money and muscle power at lower level has led to desertion of the party by deserving youths. The first task seems to organise the Youth Congress with lot of young and new faces who can think, report back ground reality, keep a check on regional satraps and owe their loyalty to the central leadership of the party. This will ensure check and balances and infuse new ideas and blood into the party system. It was Youth Congress which helped Indira Gandhi to stage a comeback after her total defeat. The youth organisation had somewhere in between lost its narrative and become an appendage of the main party and remained subservient to the regional satraps.   Deo is very blunt when he says the issue is not whether Rahul or Priyanka leads the party. The question is whether Rahul has capacity to get rid of these so-called coteries and save himself and the party. He has to be available for consultations and meet party workers from grass roots level and not confine himself within known circles. This will open up the eyes and ears of the party and make it more vibrant.

General feeling within the party is a fact that there is no more need for introspection, everybody within the party knows what has gone wrong and what has to be corrected. It is time for action for overhaul of the party organisation in democratic manner. It is time to connect with people and their issues and not remained chained to adamant thinking based on past glory.

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