Stop romancing in a virtual world
Congress must get rid of politically bankrupt elements for its revival.
This is no time for sophism and gilding. The Congress party leadership—Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi—must act to change the very structure of the organisation. They need to be wary of those who still are trying to argue that Congress has won in three out of five states to squirm out of the worst defeat in the country's most populous state.
It was amusing to watch Congress spokespersons repeating untenable arguments in television debates and receiving sharp rebuffs from even neutral panellists. Nothing could have been the worst 'party-line' than underlining the victory of the Congress party in Punjab, Manipur, and Goa at the cost of undermining the loss in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The fact tells us that the Congress has won 56 per cent of the total seats in Punjab, Manipur, and Goa whereas Bhartiya Janata Party has captured 81 per cent of the total seats in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Serious flaws in communication have been the primary problem of the Congress party, especially in past few years. This is the reason that the achievements of Congress-led UPA government could not be conveyed to the people at the time of the general election in May 2014, as a result of which Narendra Modi bulldozed the century-old organisation through his merchandise of false dreams. The absence of appropriate communicative methods is a reason that otherwise very significant efforts of party President Sonia Gandhi and its Vice President Rahul Gandhi could not yield required results during the post-2014 period. Congress is wrestling against the clutches of those for whom communication means monologues through one-sided television bytes, tweets, and WhatsApp messages. Congress party units in states also follow the same model of communicating with media and party colleagues. How can romancing in a virtual world and keeping a distance from reality provide you with the results you want?
One can debate how Narendra Modi could achieve such a massive poll victory in Uttar Pradesh. One can question the methods he applied to get this outcome. Means adopted to achieve any goal are of course as important as the goal itself. But the fact is that he accomplished whatever he wanted. I don't think that BJP's victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand are a testament to Modi's appeal, that he is the most dominant person in the country and that his appeal is pan-Indian. I also don't agree that the results are an endorsement to the policy of demonetisation and prove the support of poor masses to Modi. But the results have clearly shown that these are critical times for the Congress, and Sonia and Rahul will have to free themselves from the dodders that are surrounding them immediately if their organisation's fading glory has to be reclaimed.
The time has come when Rahul must close the doors for those who have miserably failed to demonstrate their leadership skills despite full support from him. He needs to show more faith in potential leaders in different parts of the country. It will not be easy for him to draw a road map for 2019 with the current set of associates and he must realise that major states such as Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh also have to go for polls before the next general elections. Efforts to wipe out the adverse impact of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand results on the morale of party workers with the gains in Punjab, Manipur and Goa is no remedy. It needs an overhaul of the party organisation at all levels. Not doing it immediately after 2014 debacle is proving fatal now.
Congress was once the home for strong regional faces. It must re-design the rule book for the emergence of leaders with a reasonably free hand in the states. Rahul Gandhi had expressed his desire to have at least a dozen chief ministerial faces in all the states. He also wants to open the doors of the party to every eligible person. He desires to say goodbye to a system which caters only the sons and daughters of the party leaders or nominees of different groups with vested interests. Rahul must find the elements sabotaging his plan of actions. Sooner he does it, better for his party.
After the BJP's victory in Uttar Pradesh, its president Amit Shah said in a press conference on Saturday that "Modi has emerged as the most popular leader after Independence". The comparisons between Modi and Indira Gandhi have been made in past two and a half year. There were efforts to portray Modi as firm in his political decisions as Indira Gandhi was. But Shah has gone one step further this time and wants us to believe that Modi had even outstripped the first Prime Minister of our country—Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru ranks second only to Mahatma Gandhi in the pantheon of India's founding fathers. Nehru single-handedly built the post-colonial Republic. His power was unchallenged during his time. Congress and its leadership will have to fight the war of perception the BJP has created: a myth about Modi that he has surpassed the height of even Nehru.
After becoming Prime Minister Modi has not hesitated a bit in using his vast governmental powers to push his political appeal. As a result of this BJP's vote share, this time has outstripped every performance of Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Congress fought its last election in Uttar Pradesh under Nehru's leadership in 1962 and BJP has got a higher vote share than what Congress could have got in '62. Ignoring the political realities of today and leaving their handling to the same set of lieutenants responsible for the debacles in 5-6 years would be suicidal. Beware of sleeping with the enemies.
(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views are personal.)
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