Thursday, December 3, 2020

How to solve the problem of Congress?

The Congress party appears to be in turmoil all over the country. The party’s poor performance in Bihar in recent elections has prompted senior leaders to air their views in public. Had there been internal discussion and review, there would not have been any need for the seniors to talk to newspersons. The party leadership itself is not the same it was earlier. No one knows for sure who is running the party. Is it Sonia Gandhi, the leader who was president of the party for the longest term in its history, now holding reins on tentative basis, who is running the party? Or is it Rahul Gandhi, former president of the party who resigned taking moral responsibility for the party’s defeat in 2019 elections, now issuing statements attacking the prime minister on regular basis and campaigning in elections whenever and wherever they are held?

It is a full time job

The post of the Congress party president is more than a full-time job. A person, how so ever efficient and intelligent he or she may be, cannot do justice to the job of party president when health problems consume time and energy. The grand old party has a president who is unwell and an activist who works but does not take responsibility.

The responsibility for the defeat in Bihar was owned by one Akhilesh Prasad Singh, a senior leader in the State. He said the mistake was made in selection of the seats to contest. Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the same thing in his interview to ‘Dainik Bhasakr.’ The Congress had contested in the constituencies which it should not have done. He has pointed out that the Congress had contested in 25 seats which have been returning the BJP or its allies for twenty years continuously.

Congress could not choose the seats

The fact of the matter is that the Congress is not in a position to choose the seats. The leader of the Mahagatbandhan (grand alliance), the RJD, would first pick up the seats it has chances to win leaving difficult seats to its allies. The Communist parties had selected the seats they were hopeful of winning. The CPI(ML) performed well by winning as many as 12 seats because it contested in places where it has been working hard at ground level. The Congress depended on the local leaders and some guest artists who landed in the party since they could not sail with the ruling party leaders.  Had the Congress contested only for 40 to 45 seats, the strike rate would have been better. But that would not have made Lalu’s son Tejashwi the chief minister. Whoever contested those 25 seats would have lost to the BJP or RJD.

A leader should keep on winning

A leader should keep on winning elections. One who keeps losing on regular basis would not be respected even if he or she is a Nehru-Gandhi. Leaders like Kapil Sibal and Chidambaram can afford to be critical now and then since they are not full-time politicians. When they are not busy with politics they would be busy as legal luminaries. Highly accomplished persons like Shashi Tharoor would be writing books. But the family had lost an opportunity when it misunderstood the intention of the letter-writers earlier this year. Persons who served the party for more than four decades had urged for introspection and suitable measures to rejuvenate the party so that it could remain a force to reckon with.

Rahul said non-Gandhi would lead

Rahul Gandhi when he quit more than a year ago as party president had said no member of his family would lead the party and a non-Gandhi should take over. He  should have organised election of a leader and handed over the reins to him or her. After all, the importance of the family would continue to be there whoever is the president of the party. Rahul Gandhi can play his role and Priyanka can continue to work for the party’s revival in Uttar Pradesh. If there is a regular president who is in full control of the party, there would  strategy meetings before the polls and review meetings after them. No such meetings are taking place now and hence the seniors are giving vent to their frustration through interviews to newspapers. It started with Kapil Sibal’s interview to the Indian Express.

Even Akhilesh Prasad Singh who took the blame on himself for the poor show by the Congress in Bihar, is waiting to meet Rahul Gandhi who believes in ‘Nishkama karma’ doing his job without expecting returns. The best response from the family to the prevailing crisis  would be to call for AICC meeting and hold elections and pass on the reins to the elected president. If some leaders choose to leave the party, so be it. Heavens are not going to fall.

Wiped out in South India

The party has been wiped out in the South except in Karnataka. In the ensuing elections for Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, the Congress is feeble. It does not attract any media attention. Manickam Tagore who made some noise after being nominated as in charge of Telangana Congress affairs, has not held any review meeting after losing face in Dubbaka by-election in which the BJP has scored an upset win. The saffron party which ended up in third position in 2018 elections in Dubbaka worked very hard and snatched the seat from TRS in spite of the latter’s campaign being led by a seasoned warrior such as State Finance Minister T. Harish Rao. All the surveys conducted in Greater Hyderabad give a poor fourth position to the Congress after the TRS, the AIMIM and the BJP. Former Mayor has left   Congress party to join the BJP. Former ministers had joined either the TRS or the BJP. The leaders who worked together in Dubbaka by-election are back to their factional ways. There is nobody in Delhi who can infuse confidence and enthusiasm in the party leaders and cadres in States like Telangana.

State of coma

To be precise, the party is in a state of coma. There is a dire need for a good doctor to get the party back into the track. The president  should be elected and not nominated by Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi. Even today, the good old party has its voters, cadre and leaders in almost all the major States. A proper stimulant is required for the party to start functioning in a normal fashion. A win in Kerala (if BJP allows) or a good show in Tamil Nadu in alliance with the DMK would bring the spring back into its feet. A fresh face and a fresh start are compulsory for the revival of Congress’ fortunes. The party can afford to undertake any experiment since it has nothing to lose. It is now or never.   

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