Only way out for the Gandhi scion is to act decisively and put his house in order
By Anil Anand
The complete whitewash that Congress faced in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand Assembly polls and absolute mishandling of situation in Goa and Manipur where it emerged as the single largest party and the rival BJP pulling the rug from beneath its feet has the left the over-a-century old organisation in a complete mess. The party is currently floating in an air of cluelessness.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s description that the poll outcome was ‘not bad’ and that the party was ‘a little down’ in UP cannot be described as a modest view by any stretch of imagination. The storm would neither blow over nor leave the party unharmed by simply closing the eyes. Furthermore his observation, made for umpteenth time in the recent past that Congress needs structural and organisational changes certainly does not brook any confidence either in public or the rank and file.
It only conveys a sense of haplessness and intense pressure which the Gandhi scion is currently facing. Is there a way out of this mess to resurrect the organisation in preparation for 2019 Lok Sabha elections? There are no visible clues emanating from the AICC headquarters.
Both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul returned from USA where the former had gone for a medical check up. The party’s star spokesperson Abhishekh Singhvi, after their arrival candidly sought a chance to breath as the leaders had just returned, before initiating the process of galvanising the party or at least discuss the causes of poll debacle.
It might sound too harsh but this is the reality prevailing at this juncture. Although Rahul cannot be solely blamed for the Congress’s continuous downward trend but it is a harsh reality that a stage has arrived where he should either perform or perish. Those who interact with him in close proximity describe him as a well-meaning and knowledgeable person that includes some of his detractors within the party. But that would not suffice anymore as he is direly required to give a good public account of himself.
Those of the detractors both within and outside Congress feel that Rahul would back out and support someone else to become party president under the present appalling circumstances are only following a political idiom that best suits their personal interests. There are strong indications that this is not going to happen anyway.
So then what is the route ahead?
Rahul was a reluctant starter as a politician is well known. Ostensibly, he was gripped by a sense of insecurity in the subsequent years is also true. But that he was casual during his first two terms as a Member of Parliament and showed little or no interest in party affairs is also a fact.
Past has gone over and cannot be retrieved. The only way to redemption for him and the party lies in acting fast and decisively. Decisiveness is the hallmark of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that forces everyone within the government and the BJP to be on their tenterhooks lest they are hauled up and sent packing.
Rahul would be again required to face and match him in the next general elections. His emergence as a decisive leader within the party would be a great leap forward to be followed by other measures needed to change the negative public perception created by his political detractors and strengthened at times by his own deeds.
Transition of power at any level is never a smooth affair. If he had not realised this earlier Rahul must acknowledge this immediately and start acting without caring for adverse reaction that such a move might evoke from the old-guard within Congress. The mool-mantra for him is being decisive and interactive.
It is ironic that he has not been able to create a team of young committed political leaders as a core after which he could easily embark upon an organisational restructuring at all levels. Two years is too small a period to prepare the fledgling organisation for Lok Sabha elections and that too when faced with a formidable and aggressive rivals as Modi-Amit Shah duo.
The old-guard in Congress must realise that Rahul cannot work in vacuum which is creation of their collective wisdom. They (the senior leaders) must act in unison and guarantee an open field, without attaching any conditions for their own further growth, for Rahul to act freely. The old guard must realise and become a vehicle of change while it would be incumbent upon the young leader to respect and recognise the services of the veterans.
What is more intriguing is that the members of this old brigade want Rahul to act without making any sacrifice themselves to save the party. If the old brigade is still adamant then they should be subjected to accountability theory. There is a total mismatch between what the party (read Gandhi family) gave them and what they contributed in the organisation’s growth.
Having said this, the prime responsibility, of course lies with Rahul if he is to lead the party. He has been the victim of a vicious campaign to create a negative perception about him but he must share his part of the blame to have, at times, acted casually and provided fodder for his rivals to strengthen their campaign.
It is high time that Rahul is elevated as the Congress president for him to make an earnest effort to rejuvenate the party and create a team of his own trust. A strong at least a stable Congress would be a perquisite for the party to use its pan-India presence to become the fulcrum of a future alliance or a ‘Mahaghatbandhan’ to take on the might of Modi.
This is a daunting task but then there is no escape route for Rahul but to take a call. The earlier he does the better it would be for him and the party. Any further delay would only strengthen his detractors particularly within the Congress and provide an opportunity to Modi-Shah duo to hit the already weakened party hard where it hurts the most.