Rahul more imperative now
Rahul Gandhi's presence is more imperative in a bid to revitalise Congress and revive it from the electoral debacle it has faced
Despite whatever his bête noire might say, it is my firm opinion that Rahul Gandhi has become more imperative, not only for the Congress party or for anti-BJP Opposition, but for India's polity. After a bulldozing 'ThreeNotThree' victory of Narendra Modi, it may sound absurd, when I say this. After a flagrant defeat of the Congress party and an embarrassing loss which Rahul faced in his decades-old family constituency in Amethi, my opinion will surely attract strong disdain from various quarters. But I stand with Rahul Gandhi and say that the Congress Working Committee has obliged itself by unanimously rejecting the offer of Rahul Gandhi to resign from the presidency. Had Rahul written a letter of resignation, he would have simply used his pen to record his moral responsibility only. But he chose to do much more than this by agreeing for not leaving the command of his force at this crucial juncture.
There is no denying the fact that Congress has faced electoral disgrace for the second time consecutively. There also cannot be a denial of the fact that nothing could be more severe a blow than the defeat of Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. But party insiders will tell you that the coterie surrounding him needs more objurgation for all this than Rahul himself. No one can raise a finger on Rahul's efforts, performance and the required killing instinct in a political battle with self-restraint that he showed, especially, in the past two years. But for Rahul's intensity, Congress would have vanished if this was the NaMo undercurrent across the country. He toiled day and night to fight this vigorous battle in most challenging circumstances.
Now is the time for Rahul to fully recognise the challenges, the failures, and the shortcomings, resulting in this mandate. Only a thorough, honest and affirmative introspection and equally conscientious implementation of the outcome of that analysis can save and revive Congress. If Rahul fails in completely overhauling his party with detailed restructuring at every level this time, there would not be another day left for him. A plan to this effect must come into force at the earliest. Rahul has to be very careful with the scheming forces within his party who have acquired an expertise in the science of dilly-dallying to keep them protected from any upheaval.
Congress Working Committee has passed a resolution that says, "Congress party has lost the election but our indomitable courage, our fighting spirit and commitment to our ideology remains stronger than ever. We shall continue its fight against forces that thrive on hatred and division." Only Rahul remains duty-bound to give a true meaning to these words through his actions in times to come. It is good to be a gentleman but political management sometimes requires little ruthlessness too. There are numerous instances when his political lieutenants took no care in executing his plans, programmes, and instructions. No commander can win any battle if he has such teammates with him who do not bother to carry out their captain's directives.
Narendra Modi government is bound to face various challenges from day one. Nation will watch him negotiating with the issue of surging oil prices post-sanctions against Iran. The banking sector is in dire straits with uncontrolled and unchecked NPA's soaring to nearly Rupees 12 lakh crores. During five years of Modi-government, the stability of banking operations has gone down to a threatening low. The downturn of the economy coupled with lack of private investment and a steep fall in consumption patterns, point towards a grave economic slowdown. India will watch Modi handling this problem.
The looming job crisis for the past few years has seen no solutions. The rate of unemployment is highest in the past 45 years and jeopardising the future of our young. The agrarian crisis continues unabated with large swathes of the country reeling under severe drought. Modi's track record of the last five years is an assurance that he will not be able to get a smooth ride on all these routes. Institutional integrity will remain under a cloud in Modi's second tenure too. Congress, therefore, would get ample opportunities to clamp the new government. But to avail them, a well-designed road map within and outside Parliament is required. Rahul has to reinvent organisational machinery that is more dedicated to the cause.
Congress party's frontal organisations are lying in a badly crippled situation. Rather than acting as a strong force raising people's issues on the streets, Youth Congress has been converted into a hermitage. Too many experiments with the youth organisation of the party have taken its basic sheen out and it is at the moment neither here nor there. Rahul must refill it with fresh energy, spirit, and zeal. There are ways other than the direct elections in Youth Congress to avoid the dynasties taking control of the youth wing through nominations. If there is a tight vigil on the process of nominations and a strong will for not allowing vested interests to take control of any space in various party corridors, intruders can be sidelined.
Unless Congress party's women's wing becomes free from its 'kitty party mindset', Congress is bound to be deprived of the support of half of India's population. Even if at the national level, Mahila Congress is seen as little active sometime, at the state level its presence is negligible and at district levels it is pathetic. Congress Sevadal is also on the same footing. The new generation has no inclination to work in Sevadal. Rahul must design a mechanism which can provide new and meaningful directions to both these frontals. Party's student wing also needs a new grammar and narrative with which it can rejuvenate campuses across the country.
Having covered the Congress party as a journalist very intensely for two and a half decades and then working closely with it as a party-man, I have found that despite the utmost honesty in the efforts of the top leadership, Congress fails to yield the required results because of a tendency seeped among the middle-level party people to somehow grab the assignments and positions and then keep themselves busy in extracting personal benefits out of them. Another major flaw is that the party's central command has no structured instrument of monitoring the performance of position holders discharging responsibilities in different parts of the country. Rahul Gandhi, after taking over as the Vice President of the party, expressed his will to develop such a system while participating in a meeting of national office bearers spread over for three days at the party headquarters, but perhaps could not pursue it further. A total absence of such an eye has prompted most of the office bearers for taking their jobs more as a picnic than any mission. Tightening all these loose ends must now be Rahul's topmost priority without which it will be impossible even for any divine power to rescue Congress.
(The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)