HomePoliticsChintan Shivir: Will Congress walk the talk?

Chintan Shivir: Will Congress walk the talk?


New Delhi: There seems no end to the struggles of the Indian National Congress to come out of the political and structural morass it has sunk in and reconfigure itself as a war-fit outfit to face the grim battles up front.

The much-hyped ‘Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir’ of the grand old party concluded in Udaipur in Rajasthan the other day with a grand speech by the former AICC president Rahul Gandhi, who is likely to return as the party chief in a few months. He put the message loudly and clearly that the party’s political vision is to wage a relentless fight against the ideology of the RSS and the BJP, which threatens the founding principles of the Indian Union. Gandhi also bluntly told the party functionaries that it is vitally important to reconnect with the masses.

Fair enough. What, however, is to be eagerly watched is whether any serious efforts will make by the top brass of the party to translate these high pronouncements into action on the ground? Or will they remain just another set of writ-on-water, going by the recent history of the party ?.

In the run-up to the conclave, its spin doctors had fed the media with the narrative that from Udaipur the party would come out with fresh political perspectives, strategies and tactics. They had claimed that the jamboree would see a free-and-frank exchange of views by the attendees drawn from all parts of the country. No option, including a complete leadership overhaul, could be foreclosed if that would help the party regain its past glory. The three-day camp, however, provided any clue that the party is headed for a radical shift. It drew to a close not with a bang but with a whimper. After the ritualistic re-pledging of loyalty to the high order, interspersed with some plain talks, the ‘netas’ rose by unanimously endorsing their unflinching faith and hope in the first family of the party. The good old party has once again reinforced the first family exceptionalism.

The biggest failure of the meeting was that it did not make any serious attempt to evolve a meticulous action plan to take head-on its principal adversary, the BJP. With another round of crucial assembly polls in the offing, the saffron party will be increasing the stridency of its majority-oriented ultra-nationalist posturing. How is Congress going to face this formidable challenge?

It is evident from the recent electoral drubbings it suffered that the Congress cannot beat the rival so easily without making amply clear its ideological positions on vital issues, matched by organisational dynamism, to put the core themes across persuasively.

How stronger has the party emerged from the Chintan Shivir to be able to win back its lost centrist space, which still has many takers in the country? Hollowing rhetoric to cover up one’s failures and occasional grandstanding by invoking the legacy is simply not enough. A well-drawn plan to chart the way forward in choppy waters, and the creation of a vast pool of trained and competent human power to navigate the party, is still missing badly. There is no definite clue that the Udaipur get-together has made a strategic shift in that direction.

The over-amplified declarations and resolutions at the end of the huddle taste were on expected lines. The bold pronouncements like the adoption of internal democratic practices and more berths for youth, women and historically depressed sections in base-to-top tiers sound mere reiterations from the earlier brainstorming sessions. Suggestions like setting an age limit for the functionaries had been conveniently bypassed considering their impracticability.

The Chintan Shivir was the result of back-to-back electoral drubbings received by the party. The last round of assembly polls, which saw Punjab slipping out of hands besides failing to regain Goa and Uttarakhand, proved excruciatingly painful. While a few isolated voices squarely blamed the family for the party’s sordid condition, even the ardent loyalists had started showing signs of frustration. A feeling was palpable that it would be suicidal to continue to ignore the serious maladies eating into the very vitals of the organization.

The Udaipur mela did not also offer any fresh take on how the Congress would position itself as the leader of a broad anti-BJP coalition, in which a whole set of regional parties fit in. It is evident from the reportage of the meet that many senior leaders still suffer from the delusion that the party could regain its preeminent status by attempting some organisational tinkering here and there. They see Congress still as the only national alternative to the BJP. All that is required, going by this myopic vision, is to ramp up the attack on the Narendra Modi government. The national mood will eventually turn in its favour as the present regime starts to fail to deliver before it runs its full second course. The proponents of this line fail to see that the regional parties call shots in vast swathes of the country’s political geography, and they stand to benefit much more than the Congress from the failures of the Modi government.

It is obvious that, in the given situation, Congress can not survive by dumping the Gandhi family. It will be politically imprudent to make such a demand, and grossly ungrateful to overlook the legacy of the family. All that it could hope for is measured democratization of its structural tiers. Still, the party’s top echelon is inevitably freed of incompetent organisational functionaries, who still form a coterie constricting change.

N Muraleedharan
N Muraleedharan
Senior Journalist from Kerala. Worked with leading news agency Press Trust of India. He is regular columnist and writes on politics of Kerala and National Politics.


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