Millennium Post

Rudderless leadership

The Congress  has been beaten fair and square in the just concluded round of assembly polls. Its best leaders from the elder and the younger generations were leading the charge in the four states. The party despite several shortcomings in governance expected a credible performance with a rout being the last thing on their mind. They have been decimated not just in Delhi but also in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Their performance in Chhattisgarh too has nothing much to write home about.

Who will the party blame for the pathetic show? I guess some of the general secretaries in-charge of the states, the presidents of the state units and the outgoing chief ministers could be made to carry the cross for not having brought laurels to party’s top leader, its vice president Rahul Gandhi. But would the party top leadership have the ability to examine the complete lack of direction which the Congress party is suffering from.

Unlikely that some of the best talents of the country, who are part of the Congress will have enough courage to question some of the decisions which the new leader has taken and which largely have been responsible for its miserable performance. In the name of giving a new look to the Congress organisation, Gandhi has destroyed the existing structure and failed to provide an alternative. His team of political managers may make good copy for English language magazines and newspapers but they do not bring good news to the masses, rather they make no sense to the people. I do not resent their foreign degrees but they aren’t the first in the Indian politics to have returned from abroad to join politics.

Much before them there were Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Both educated abroad. However, they cut their teeth in Indian politics by participating in mass movements. While Mahatma came to India with the massive reputation of having taken on the British might in South Africa, Nehru was sent by his mentor to participate in the Kisan movement of Faizabad district under Baba Ram Chandra to get a feel of the issues facing the Indian masses. Unfortunately, for Rahul Gandhi all his tutoring about Indian politics have been theoretical with no participation whatsoever in a political agitation or even an election campaign. It would be helpful if a case is not made out about his intervention in Bhatta Parsaul or for that matter breaking bread at a Dalit household.

Such efforts at event management have borne no fruit is for all to see. The relationship between the Congress party and the Indian masses survived for over a century because its top leaders all these years nurtured some very strong grass root leaders. It was through these state leaders that Congress high command managed to connect to the masses. However, a look at Rahul Gandhi team would that it bears a close resemblance to a crèche of modern day princelings. Despite flaunting a flurry of smart phones and other gadgets they have been the worst communicators.

I fail to understand why the Congress leadership doesn’t trust its cadres to communicate its plans and policies to the masses. Why does it have to outsource its communication channels to its sympathisers and supporters? Why the top Congress leadership including the prime minister, the Congress president and the vice-president follow the policy of remaining incommunicado?

The governance mechanism set-up by the Congress party itself is faulty. Its success cannot be judged in the terms of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coming back to power in 2009 or being part of a power sharing arrangement post 2014 general election. Its failings have to be judged from the way the office of the prime minister of the world’s most vibrant democracy has been weakened.

On 8 December when the results of the just concluded round of the state assembly polls came out, the analysts on the television went hammer and tongs on the failings of the central government and how the brunt had to be faced by the state governments and the state units. The Congress president and the vice-president ‘obliged’ coming out to ‘address’ media persons but where was the man who is head of the Central government.

Dr Manmohan Singh doesn’t campaign in the polls as he has nothing to offer as head of a discredited government. He doesn’t come out to own up the failings of his government which has contributed substantially to the electoral decimation of his party. With no political role assigned to the prime minister, how does the Congress party expect to do politics.

The head of the government cannot speak for himself and his government; the de facto head of party cannot speak in public without being ‘agitated’ with his government, his party and his workers. Aren’t these ample reasons for the masses to get agitated in turn and show the rudderless Congress leadership its appropriate place?

Howsoever one may disagree with the politics of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi but there is no denying the fact that he has managed to show to the people that he is the man in the command of his party. His stamp has been most visible in Delhi where is managed to retrieve BJP from a single-digit position to being the largest party in the assembly. Modi has communicated with people using both the real and virtual means and forced Congress to follow him.

If these elections show that BJP’s campaign has found a direction, it also certainly shows that the Congress has lost its moorings.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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