Chintan Shivir doesn’t mean Congress revival is rid of chinta

The Chintan Shivir will go down as another feint devised by the Gandhi loyalists to delude the gullible in the party and outside that, at long last, something is done to revive the fortunes of the party.

Asiya AnwarUpdated: Monday, May 16, 2022, 08:32 AM IST
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Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi, centre, with senior Congress leaders at the Chintan Shiveer Congress meet at Udaipur | Photo: Twitter/@INCIndia

The Udaipur Chintan Shivir of the Congress party was highly unlikely to set the Yamuna on fire. A party tied to the apron strings of the Gandhis, and suffering from terminal decline, needs a drastic overhaul, not cosmetic changes. Peripheral measures such as weeding out the deadwood, limiting terms of office-bearers to a three-year period, denying tickets to habitual losers, etc., are all very well. That is, in case even these small steps are actually implemented sincerely. Already, there are reports that the proposed one-family, one-ticket plan is not applicable to quite a few seniors. Which, of course, would include the Gandhi trio. There was also talk of structural changes in the organisational setup. For this sort of restructuring to have a real effect at the ground level, the party needs a winning leader who can catch the imagination of the country. Whether one likes it or not, all three Gandhis have repeatedly faltered on this vital test. Because they still have a vice-like grip on the Grand Old Party, the growing irrelevance of the once-mighty Congress can be directly ascribed to their lack of leadership. Hiring a hundred mercenary political consultants cannot breathe life into the moribund organisation. What is needed is a major surgical procedure at the top. Band-aid solutions like prescribing time-limits on office-bearers only help paper over the insecurities of those concerned about the ability of the leadership to revive the fortunes of the party.

The bottom line is that the Gandhis no longer impress the voter. Indeed, Rahul Gandhi might have already become a liability for the party. Yet, Sonia’s son-love comes in the way of choosing a new leader, a fresh face with a deep understanding of the country’s ethos, its traditions, and a willingness to put in hard work. Without a doubt, as the oldest political formation which led the freedom movement, Congress still enjoys residual goodwill in all corners of the country. There is a Congress sympathiser in almost every village but thanks to the arrogance and corruption of successive leaders, he has moved on, crossing over to the relatively new regional parties, or even the BJP, the only other national party which now threatens to make the nation Congress-Mukt. No democrat would wish the Congress’s demise. It is absolutely necessary for the main Opposition to acquire a considerable heft for it to call out the acts of omission and commission of the ruling party. The trouble is that the Congress has even failed to perform the role of an effective Opposition, to point out the excesses of the Modi Government. Instead, the impulsive tweet-a-day routine of the Congress dynasty has become a substitute for serious political struggle. Politics is a 24x7 vocation, especially after the advent of Modi on the national scene. Staying cocooned in the palace-like sarkari bungalow at 10 Janpath, as Sonia has habitually done all these years, or taking off for foreign climes at the drop of a hat even when the party is in the throes of a life-or-death crisis, as Rahul and Priyanka are prone to do often, is hardly a way to signal that they care for the party which they treat as a family heirloom.

The Chintan Shivir will go down as another feint devised by the Gandhi loyalists to delude the gullible in the party and outside that, at long last, something is done to revive the fortunes of the party. However, going by the record of such Shivirs and conclaves one cannot be overly hopeful of real change. In our view, for the party to reverse the current state of rigour mortis, the first step has to be miraculous. That is, the Gandhis stepping aside and allowing fresh blood to infuse life into it. The old grandees who have thrived on the patronage of the Family, too, must call it a day. There still is a lot of talent in the party. It should be encouraged to act independently in its best interest which, of course, may not necessarily be in the personal interests of the Gandhis. Congress needs a new leader, a new identity, and a new pro-people messaging. Rearranging organisational chairs and dropping a few rejected and dejected leaders from the higher echelons cannot yield results. It is a sheer hoodwink. The party needs to make the Gandhis ‘margdarshaks’, all three of them, à la the BJP. And then proceed from there on to rebuild it brick by brick. It is a tough task but given the right leadership, it can still be done. The Opposition space is so vast, and opportunity so ripe, that the right leader at the helm of the Congress can make it relevant again. Of course, we hope in vain given the mulishness of the entrenched leadership.

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