Exercising her ubiquitous moral authority to handle things differently, Sonia Gandhi remains the sole catalyst to Congress’s revival amidst prolonged bleakness
If reports of Sonia Gandhi's refusal to accept the proposal to appoint Prerak (motivator) for conducting Congress's outreach activities across the country, on the ground that the word has a glaring similarity to the Pracharak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are true, there lies an enormous hope of speedy revival of 134 year old organisation from the situation it is facing for last five-six years.
As media reports suggest, a proposal to have Preraks as a bridge between Congress and its grassroots was submitted by party's training department in a recently held meeting of chief ministers of Congress-ruled states, leaders of legislature parties in different states, party presidents of state units and national general secretaries/in-charges of states. The proposal reportedly suggested that Preraks be appointed at various levels across the country to impart training and organise workshops for workers.
The proposal could not gather support from the participants of the meeting who found that the word sounded too similar to the nomenclature RSS has for its operatives. Movers of the proposal tried to convince the meeting to adopt the concept of Preraks by arguing that it was Rajiv Gandhi who had written a paper titled 'Abhi Prerak' in 1987. But interim Congress's interim president reportedly rejected the idea by saying that this was 'New India' and the messaging has to be clear and bold. She said that Congress cannot be seen towing it's rival's line. She also stressed that public memory is very short and one cannot expect people to have such recall value that the word Prerak was used by us as early as 32 years back.
Prerak, perhaps, would be changed to Samnvayak, Sanyojak or Sahyogi (coordinator, convenor or consociate). If happened, it was a very meagre part of the entire proceedings of the meeting. But the incident has its substantial importance because it shows how meticulous Sonia is in giving green signal to any program her party wants to undertake and how she has an eye for details which can ensure that Congress moves in the right direction in coming months. Had there been anyone else at the helm of the party affairs following Rahul Gandhi's exit, Preraks would have found their way in a slumbering atmosphere.
Only Sonia in her party has a ubiquitous moral authority with which she can handle things differently. Therefore, she could warn her chief ministers that they have a special responsibility in states and must stand out as examples of sensitive and responsive governance with accountable and transparent administration. "We must be seen to be fulfilling our manifesto commitments. If not, we will lose people's support with obvious consequences", she cautioned them. By this, she made it clear that the reports she is getting about the performance in various states are less than satisfactory. Imagine if any of the names that were taking rounds after Rahul's resignation were leading the party provisionally today, would leaders such as Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Capt. Amrinder Singh taken this caution with required seriousness?
It also requires spunk to tell a self-obsessed lot to have a concrete agitational agenda on issues of pressing concern to the people and that 'it is not enough to be active and aggressive on the social media'. Sonia told the 'hip-hip hurray brigade' that far more important is to go to the people directly because 'people expect Congress to stand up fearlessly to fight on the streets, fight in villages, towns and cities'. Sonia is well aware of the fact that at the time of preparing for 2019 general elections RSS-BJP launched a huge social media campaign but they kept their ground activities imperforate whereas, under the influence of alien teenage managers, even the seasoned leaders began fighting their electoral battles on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram only ignoring hard realities that need personal touch with the ground.
This is the time when Congress can bombard against a situation that has taken its ugliest shape because of a prolonged economic slump, job losses and shakier confidence of investors. This is the time when Modi government appears more and more clueless and insensitive, when vendetta politics is at its peak, when people are feeling threatened and intimidating and when each and every institution is being diabolically subverted. If not now, when will the time of resurgence come for Congress?
Realising this, Sonia said in the meeting, "democracy has never been at greater peril than it is now, the mandate of 2019 is now being misused and abused in a most dangerous fashion'. She also made it clear that during these testing times it will become clear that who are those steadfastly devoted to Congress as an ideology and those who look to Congress only as an opportunity for self-advancement. The recent upheavals within her party must have made Sonia much more observant in choosing the future fellows, not only for her but for Rahul and Priyanka too.
States ruled by Congress are generally seen as the standing safe sanctuaries of democracy. People-centric governance, economic remonetisation, and the strongest bulwark against BJP would add to the credibility of Congress. There is a need to put in place an effective system for monitoring and implementation of the key manifesto commitments that the Congress had made in the run-up to the Assembly Elections. Effective coordination between the party organisations and the governments in Congress-ruled states is also necessary. Congress has to counter constant diabolic game destabilisation that the BJP plays.
Congress has to re-launch its narrative strongly. It must have a strong and compact team of dedicated, well-studied and sober word-soldiers that can take on loudmouths of RSS-BJP spokespersons on various media forums. Personal likes and dislikes of middle-level schemers have brought Congress to this disgraceful footing. Getting rid of this lot by sidelining them ferociously must be a top priority for the party leadership. Without this, all the sweat will go waste, as in the past. If it is against the elegance to drive them out, those who want to slush everything, those who want to hush power and those whose job has been nothing than milking, let at least let them go.
Observing Sonia Gandhi's two decades in politics, I can say that she believes in being heart-to-heart with her colleagues. Her frankness is the child of her honesty and courage. She understands that politics is a common calling and that it is something to be discussed with absolute sincerity. Sonia has spoken the truth. Others must learn to hear it. Turning deaf ears to her advise will block opportunities for revival. Congress cannot afford to miss the train this time.
(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)