A Vipassana for Congress
Congress must craft an effective roadmap to reinvigorate the opposition and reinvent itself in a bid to better tackle their influential rivals at the Centre
There is no denying the fact that people are losing trust in the Narendra Modi led government and Amit Shah led Bhartiya Janata Party as a result of the severe economic crisis that the country is facing for the past
few years. The election results from Haryana and Maharashtra are emblematic of this actuality. The political developments in Maharashtra to form a government have made it clear that BJP is not only losing grip on its saffron allies but also facing turbulent weather within its own organisation.
This is the time when the Congress party should sincerely make attempts to occupy as much space in the public imagination as possible. With its allies, Congress must make an effective roadmap to invigorate the entire Opposition. To make it a success story, Sonia Gandhi may consider taking a few conclusive steps in the coming months — a Vipassana, that is necessary for the renaissance of the Congress.
When Sonia completes six months of her interim presidency, Congress will have to make a decision regarding its leadership in a more permanent manner. There are several options that may be taken in this regard. First, Sonia takes over till the next organisational elections are held after three years in November-December of 2022. Second, that Rahul Gandhi acknowledges his obligation to the party and joins back. Third, the chair passing to Priyanka Gandhi. Lastly, there is the option of having some other leader chosen as the president. I would give the second option the maximum likelihood of taking place. Rahul is without a doubt, duty-bound to re-join. In the meanwhile, Sonia has ample time to assemble an inclusive team of implementers that can be handed over to assist him.
An across-the-board lineup should be conceived immediately at the national level as well as in states. Congress has to confront the grassroots connection of the BJP leadership. Ignoring the fact that BJP is distinctly ahead of the Congress in public opinion, it is a fact that people are slowly turning against Modi and Shah policies. Still, it can politically suicidal for opposition parties to oppose recent BJP actions as the Supreme Court's verdict on Ram temple has the potential of bolstering BJP for few more years with a comfortable edge. Therefore, Sonia should derive a state-specific federal structure with a strong nucleus at the centre. Some of the veterans of the party may have to be asked to hold down the fort in their respective states, vacating their place in the central command and allowing some of the energetic youth leaders to take their place in the national embryo. Currently, the constitution of the office bearers at both national and state levels is imbalanced and vague. Without streamlining it, Congress cannot fight BJP.
The middle rank of the Congress has mostly been taken over by the neo-converts who have no ideological conviction, no historical vision and no sense of responsibility. They are the products of a new propensity in a section of the affluent class of our society which is busy occupying spaces within the ruling setups by designating the required family members to different political outfits. They come from nouveau riche families with an agenda to only expand their personal empires of wealth and have no socio-political commitment to their public lives. Getting rid of this layer is the most challenging task for Sonia's Congress before spring 2020 begins.
It is not only within the Congress party that leaders and workers feel uncomfortable with the high-command for not breaking status quo in time, the leaders of their allied parties also often complain about the tendency of 'cruel indecisiveness' in the Congress. Being positively indecisive is as dangerous as being negatively decisive. Sonia has to address this handicap by giving a strong thrust to the functioning mechanism of her party. She has shown similar maturity during her interim presidency as she has in her two decades of unchallenged presidency. But, she needs to be more assertive in deciding the internal organisational matters without any delay.
Communication is one area that demands fundamental overhaul in its faculty, formulations, vision, structure and optics. A Communicator's credibility in civil society depends on his/her track record regarding their journey on the pathway of ideological conviction, on the course of commitments and on the avenue of probity. Communication should never be left to robots equipped with Artificial Intelligence. Superficial faces wearing shining jackets and crisply ironed clothes cannot inject trust among the masses for any political party. Communicators can never create a favourable perception unless they themselves are not perceived as genuine believers.
Unfortunately, Congress party's communication control towers have been hijacked by a majority of unqualified and undeserving elements in the states and at the national level. Most of them, rather than adding anything to the party's kitty, have rather contributed to sending away thousands of party sympathisers with each of their abhorrent and absurd appearances in the media. Congress party needs to realise that appointments of a spokesperson cannot be treated as filling the space to accommodate different groups within the party. Only a very senior and plausible leader acting as the communication chief with a strong reasonably sized unit of spokespersons centred around them can place the train back on the correct track.
Formal academic training for new entrants should also get the highest priority. Most of the new generation people come from the families that have been associated with the Congress for generations as activists, workers, supporters or sympathisers. In that sense, these newcomers have a pre-existing foundation of Congress ideology. To give it shape, to make it structured and to prepare it for future challenges, participation in training sessions must be made compulsory at all levels. It is imperative in a heavily confused political climate created by the forces of divisiveness that Congress prepares its members routinely and systematically to take on its opponents on crucial issues at every turn and on every platform. Transmission with voters residing in a particular polling booth area must become a part of the training curriculum.
Congress cannot pull back from its historical duty to save India from the forces of conflict nor can Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka disengage themselves from this obligated resolve. The real Vipassana is an ongoing creative purification process. It is an observation of the moment-to-moment experience in order to clear the mental layers, one after another. If it is essential in the life of an individual, it is vital in the life of an organisation, even more so in a political construction.
Changing strategies more often than not cannot be the key to success. Having the ability to execute multiple strategies concurrently will take Congress on to the right path. More than the corporate culture, a political organisation requires the right leadership capabilities, heart-to-heart relationship with its workforce and quickness in right decision making to transform. Congress has to pass through the sessions of this Vipassana before having a full-time president in February-March 2020.
Pankaj Sharma is the Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. Views expressed are strictly personal