Free Press Journal

Congress must change its 132-year-old script

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FOR the Congress, it is the same old story of paralysis. Its leadership continues to wallow in indecision and confusion. Even the 2014 shocker has not served as a wake-up call. The string of electoral drubbings notwithstanding, it is still business as usual. The party has already wasted precious three years betraying little remorse.

The Modi government which completes three years in office next month can boast of several accomplishments, both on electoral and administrative fronts. Yet, Modi and Shah are not sitting pretty on their laurels. Last week, addressing the BJP national executive meet in Bhubaneswar, party president Amit Shah said that “the BJP is yet to be at its peak and will attain its peak when BJP will have chief ministers in all the states and it has members everywhere from panchayats to Parliament”.

The statement betrays a masked desire of converting India into a single-party system, in other words making it Opposition-free. Though not a wholesome thought in a parliamentary democracy, Shah’s grit and determination is admirable. As soon as the election process is over in one state, he is ready with a blueprint for the next poll-bound state. This really is 24×7 politics.


In contrast, for the Congress, it is the same old story of paralysis. Its leadership continues to wallow in indecision and confusion. Even the 2014 shocker, when its Lok Sabha tally plummeted to a record low of 44 seats, has not served as a wake-up call. The string of electoral drubbings (save Punjab and tiny Puducherry) notwithstanding, it is still business as usual. The party has already wasted precious three years betraying little remorse.

Compounding the woes many leaders have started jumping the ship. In the last two years several Congress men – former Uttarakhand CM Vijaya Bahuguna, former PCC chief Jaspal Arya, former UP Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, former Assam minister Himanta Biswas Sarma, former Manipur minister N Biren Singh, former Karnataka CM S M Krishna, and former Delhi minister Arvind Singh Lovely – quit the party to join BJP. Former Chhattisgarh CM Ajit Jogi and union minister G K Vasan have floated their own separate parties. The buzz is that BJP is in touch with political weather cocks in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha and that some covert deals are in the pipeline.

Either the Congress has lost its appetite for power or it is confident that defections by a few opportunists and time-servers will cleanse the party and the Gandhi scion can start afresh on a clean slate.

All said and done, it is not just Rahul; the old guards too are equally responsible for the stasis. Rahul’s biggest downside is his lack of organisational grip and poor manpower management. He took over as general secretary in September 2007 and has since squandered his time, energy and resources on non-priority areas like internal democracy, corporate style talent hunt, obsession with US primaries, directing state PCCs to maintain log book of activities to check on those bunking work and asking state units to suggest names for appointment of AICC office-bearers. Some naive, some well-intentioned and good, but they all came unstuck, for time was not ripe for those experiments (when the party is in ICU). The need of the hour is immediate booster doses to bolster organisational muscle.

AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad is in charge of UP, while Ambika Soni helmed J&K, Uttarakhand and Himachal. The party lost UP and Uttarakhand recently. Digvijaya Singh has held the charge of many key states and the party has not won any of them. He is currently in charge of Goa, Telangana, Andhra and Karnataka. While BJP snatched Goa, the Congress continues to grope in the dark in Andhra and Telangana. Some alarmed party men are now demanding that Singh be taken out of poll-bound Karnataka.
Mohan Prakash was in charge of UP in 2012 and after the assembly election fiasco he was given the charge of another two key states – Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra; the party lost both. Sanjay Nirupam was in charge of Mumbai and resigned after the recent municipal poll debacle. B. K. Hariprasad held the charge of Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. He and Ajit Jogi never got along due to ego hassles. Congress lost the state to BJP while Jogi formed his own party. After the Odisha debacle, Hariprasad resigned from his post. Shakeel Ahmed held Delhi and Punjab; he was removed after AAP snatched Delhi. Lieutenant Madhusudan Mistry helmed UP for some time overseeing the party’s steady decline. Gurudas Kamat is in-charge of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The Congress lost Rajasthan and there is no sign yet of revival in Gujarat. Last year, following turf war with Nirupam, a sulking Kamat resigned from the party but stayed back after Sonia’s intervention.

C P Joshi is in charge of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. He also holds the additional charge of seven north-eastern states. He had no clue as to what was cooking in Assam. Last month, the party lost Manipur to BJP despite being single largest. Kamal Nath is in charge of Haryana and Chandigarh, Mukul Wasnik looks after Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry while former MP from Kerala
P C Chacko holds the charge of Delhi, not an astute choice for a Hindi-speaking state.

V Narayanaswamy was general secretary in charge of Arunachal till he became Puducherry CM. Articulate neither in Hindi nor English; his has been a classic case of wrong manpower deployment. He was blissfully unaware of the moves of Congress rebels and BJP strategists until the saffron party hijacked the entire Congress party barring a lone MLA in Arunachal.

In almost all states the PCC chiefs, CLP leaders, former and incumbent CMs, as the case may be, are in constant turf wars undermining the party interest. While Rahul is being trolled for repeated poll setbacks, entrenched veterans seldom draw public opprobrium. Of the 10-odd general secretaries not one has helped deliver a state last many years. In sharp contrast to Indira Gandhi, both Rahul and Sonia are mild and indulgent. In a worst-case-scenario, a serial offender gets shuffled from one state to another. The country is witnessing a paradigm shift in its political narrative and if the Congress does not change its 132-year-old script it will imperil the party.

The author is an independent journalist