Millennium Post

Introspect politics of convenience

The Congress party is facing a crisis of leadership.While the murmurs after the humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls began soon after, it has not died down as is seen from statements coming from senior leaders like A K Antony or Digvijay Singh. There are others who express their dismay privately. The party simply cannot brush aside them, as there is weight in what they say. Eyebrows were raised when the usually quiet Antony revived the much-needed introspection recently by acknowledging ‘there appears to be slight erosion in people’s faith in secularism of the Congress. This has to be examined. It is vital for the party to regain the faith of the people to move forward.’  Coming from a senior leader like Antony who has been tasked to head the committee to go into the reasons for the party’s failure and suggest way forward, the party has to sit up and debate the issue. Antony himself is a credible Congress leader hailing from the minority community. Close on its heels another senior leader Digvijay Singh added to the debate saying that the Congress had always fought ideological battles in the country but  ‘sometimes what happens is that people do the politics of convenience in their lust for power. This damages the Congress.’

The Congress party tried to make the 2014 polls as secular versus communal debate but the BJP too successfully did the same in a different manner, while the Congress failed miserably. The Congressmen are waiting for a proper forum to vent their feelings and only an AICC session or a Chintan Shivir could provide it. Many Congressmen feel that right now the party is rudderless and directionless because of the continuous drubbing in Assembly and the Lok Sabha polls in recent years. The prospects are dim in the ensuing elections to Haryana and Maharashtra. So they are looking for a miracle to revive and be relevant. This is not the first time the Congress is facing such a crisis. In 1967 after the big rout came the 1969 split, Bangladesh war and Garibi Hatao slogan. The second crisis was the emergence of the Janata Party government in 1977 after the emergency.  The Indira Congress was born soon after. A decade later, in 1989, the Congress was routed once again yielding place to the V P Singh led National Front government.  After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination P V Narasimha Rao ran a minority government for five years but lost the elections in 1996. Two years later Sonia Gandhi stepped out of her home to save the Congress and attempted a re- invention of the party choosing a coalition path and brought the party to power for ten years.

Why should there be so much despair in the party? Getting just 44 seats in the recent polls has demoralised the workers. First of all, the Congressmen have realised that the Gandhi family magic alone will not get them votes and they have to think of newer ways. While the contemporary India has been changing vigorously, the Congress’s dynasty-fixation looks not only archaic but also out of tune with the voters.  The Congress is now looking to ‘Priyanka Lao Desh Bachao’ as a last straw.
Secondly, the party has realised that Rahul Gandhi is not the answer as he had proved to be inadequate in leading the party. Digvijay Singh has given a new spin to Rahul’s leadership by stating the young Gandhi does not have the temperament of a ruler. In that case why is he in politics?
Many privately criticise Rahul’s lack of interest in leading the party in Parliament or on the streets. Some strongly feel that unless he changes his style of functioning and become a 24/7 politician he cannot be effective.

So they expect him to change himself before changing the party, interact more with the party leaders and workers and choose the right man for the right job instead of continuing with his failed experiments in reforming the party. He might have attempted these with good intentions but the party is not yet ready to absorb them. Secondly, Antony’s remark on secularism shows the need to have a re-look at the secularism card. The present stand has even damaged the party as some think that it is leaning towards the minorities at the cost of the majority. What the party needs is an ideological reboot to get things right. There is a crisis of identity and it has to restore credibility on all fronts – organisational, social and political. The third is an out of box thinking and to look for new ideas like Garibi Hatao or Aam Aadmi instead of coming up with the populist polices like the MGNREGA, as people no longer want patronage politics.

The fourth is that there should be involvement at all levels. The meetings of the party’s highest decision making body, the Congress Working Committee are few and far between. The chief ministers’ conclaves have virtually been abandoned. And the party has failed to revive itself in key states like UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu or West Bengal, which account for over one third of the Lok Sabha seats. It does not have to look far as the reports of Uma Shankar Dikshit and Antony committee reports are gathering dust at 10 Janpath. In short there is need for reinvention of the Congress like the Labor Party in England did. Even Sonia had managed to re-invent by changing the rules of the game earlier. But can the Congress reinvent itself once again? Does it have the determination, consistency and single mindedness to do it?  The Congressmen are betting on Sonia Gandhi again and expect her to lead the party from the front as well as figure out what should jell with the public this time.
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