Millennium Post

Congress refuses the bitter pill

The Congress appears to be in a revamp mode after its humiliating rout in the recent Lok Sabha polls. While the party needs a brutal surgery the immediate plan seems to be to axe some of its chief ministers for the pitiable performance. Those facing sack include Prithviraj Chavan (Maharashtra), Bhupender Singh Hooda (Haryana) and Tarun Gogoi (Assam). The Assembly elections are due in Haryana and Maharashtra while Assam has three more years to go.

The question is whether making them a scapegoat will be the cure for the chronically sick party. The Congress president Sonia Gandhi is dilly-dallying about changing the horses closer to the polls. There are also some in the Congress who feel that changing the chief ministers just three months ahead of the state polls in Haryana and Maharashtra wouldn’t impact the results much.

The party was expected to do reasonably well but has performed poorly in all the three states and elsewhere. While the chief ministers have responsibility in the good performance of the party, generally it is the centre’s performance, which is judged in Parliament elections. Popular outrage against the UPA got reflected in the LS poll results.

No doubt in Assam, Tarun Gogoi, who won the state three times, is under attack from his detractors for the past two years and it has sharpened after the party won only three out of the 14 seats. Despite all efforts from Sonia Gandhi to quell the dissent, the demand continues. Almost 45 out of the party’s 78 MLAs from the state led by Assam Education and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma urged the high command for a change. Gogoi may be sacrificed while the other two may be spared. Whatever be the decision, the uncertainty should be ended soon. In Haryana, chief minister Hooda is facing anti incumbency and dissidence within the party.  The Congress got only one seat in the recent polls.  Former Union minister Kumari Seilja has predicted that if Hooda is not removed, the Congress will face an ugly defeat again. Another Congress leader Birendra Singh is also raising a banner of revolt amidst rumors that he might join the BJP. But Hooda has enough clout with
10 Janpath to survive.

Congress has been in power in Maharashtra since 1999 winning three consecutive Assembly elections but this period also saw a sharp decline in governance. The party has changed five CMs since 1999 and Chavan is the sixth. The party is in coalition with the Nationalist Congress Party, Pressure is coming from the NCP chief Sharad Pawar as well from within the Congress to change the chief minister. Both the alliance partners fared poorly with the Congress getting just two out of the 48 seats in the Lok Sabha and the NCP four. Ever since the Congress’ drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections, there are reports about Chavan’s exit.  Rahul Gandhi’s experiment of thrusting Chavan rather than a local has not paid well as the chief minister is unable to deliver results. Maharashtra had seen the Adarsh scam, irrigation scam and witnessed rampant corruption, arrogant and unresponsive State administration, deteriorating law and order and farmers committing suicide.

Although Chavan has accepted full responsibility for the defeat his detractors are baying for his blood. The former CM of Maharashtra, Narayan Rane, has written a letter to Sonia Gandhi that Chavan needs to be replaced. Sharad Pawar has made it clear that he would
prefer a dalit chief minister, meaning his onetime close associate Sushil Kumar Shinde. Several senior ministers are reportedly vying for the chief minister’s chair. Losing Maharashtra and Haryana soon after the Lok Sabha poll debacle will bring down the morale of the party further.
The Congress leadership also has to take a number of hard decisions. It must reflect self-critically and candidly on why the party has performed poorly. Politically, the party is clearly set on a downward course. Superficial solutions will only accelerate its decline.

Secondly, the Congress must not delude itself that Rahul Gandhi is an ace vote puller as he has failed to deliver. There are some Congressmen who are dismayed that the party is stuck with Rahul. Unless he becomes a 24/7 politician and he will not be effective. But so far he has failed to transform himself. If Congress has to prepare a blueprint for its revival, the first step has to be real elections within the party.

Thirdly, the party is now depending on Sonia’s leadership rather than putting faith in the young Gandhi who has been elusive. In her first visit to Rae Bareli after the Congress’s rout in the polls, Sonia Gandhi said she would lead from the front to restore the party’s Aan, Baan, Shaan (glory). In 2015 she will complete her record fourth term and may get another term to keep the party united.
Fourthly, the old timers are seething with anger against Rahul’s coterie. The Grand Old party has to find its feet again only with brutal structural changes.
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