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July 2018
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Columns
Congress: Specialising in self- goals
 
K. Goplakrishnan

It is no secret that the historic Indian National Congress of late has been facing the problem of weak and mediocre leadership. With Sonia Gandhi not keeping good health and Rahul not yet ready or fit for the high office of the president ship of the party, it is almost dormant. It is unable to respond to the political situation as guidance is missing.

With decision making left to the Nehru-Gandhi family and absence of collective leadership for almost four and half decades, the senior leaders show no initiative to express their views openly. They follow the safe path of waiting for instructions from the Gandhi family members – read Sonia or Rahul – on virtually all issues and situations. Much time is lost in the process for the party to respond to key political developments or crisis. On most occasions the party decisions are taken late and become a loser.

On the other hand the chatur leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party respond faster whenever the situation demands so. Their sense of anticipation is sharp and brilliant. The Parivar leaders prepare well in advance in the case of elections and fix responsibility. One has to admire the strategies of Amit Shah who comes out with separate tactics and strategy for each state, depending on the problems and peculiarities of the region. Wherever necessary he has the capacity to cleverly split the opposition.

Often the innocent and inactive minds in the opposition realise that they have been taken for a ride after some time, when redemption becomes impossible. Take the instance of the recent case of nomination to the high office of Presidency. For long all knew that June is the month by which time the decision should have been taken. After the recent electoral debacle in States the crest fallen opposition did look up to the Congress party for guidance to strengthen secular forces, given the growth of the Parivar all over the country.

Had the party taken the initiative in May of putting up a candidate for the Mahaghatbandan and rest of the oppositionthe task of NDA would not have been simple. The Congress could have roped in Patnaik of Orissa and Thackerey of Maharashtra, who were estranged and unhappy with Parivar’s moves to cut their political roots in their respective states. No one in the Congress took the initiative and Rahul had little idea of the happenings around being more interested in his trip to the cool climes of Europe, which he sticks to whatever is the political compulsions back home.

When the Congress leaders were in political slumber, Shah and Company were working overtime to win over Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, who was looking for opportunities outside the Mahaghatbhandan owing to exposes about Laloo and his family members and the deteriorating personal relations of Nitish and Laloo. The opportunity was well utilised by Shah who won over Nitish as usual with promises kept as a well guarded secret. With Nitish in the pocket of Shah, it was easy to mend fences with Patnaik and Thackerey who realised that going with the Congress would be politically unwise in the given circumstances.

Congress had no candidate in mind and when BJP leaders met Sonia, she wanted to know who their candidate was. BJP could provide the name without taking many days and Congress leadership then tried to sit with the opposition and deliberate. Much time was lost. Had the Congress decided on Meira Kumar well in advance, the opposition would have had a fighting chance to place an opposition candidate in Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

Rahul Gandhi left for Europe well in advance after a guest appearance in the Madhya Pradesh struggle. Perhaps this time one cannot blame Rahul as he went out to meet his ageing grandmother. But could he not have initiated steps to prepare for presidential elections well in advance in April? Being the Vice President with unilateral and veto powers to decide on a name, the least he should have done is to rope in Nitish in the selection process and keep in the UPA camp. The Congress lost an opportunity mainly due to the failure of the top leadership.

Same was the case in the last elections. The Congress got the highest number of seats in two states. Had the party staked claims to form the government with the two respective Governors, the party could have easily formed governments and proved their majority. After all indecisive MLAs with ambitions normally go with the leader who is invited to form the government. There were enough ex congressmen elected, who could have been persuaded to join the ministry without much difficulty. But the central leadership was not quick in its responses. Central representatives too were waiting for central instructions.

In every political game in the recent past, the party specialised in self-goals. They could have clinched the issue and made its presence felt in Indian politics had the leaders responded swiftly, taken decisions and acted on it. Congress getting inactive and losing interest in politics may not be good for secular and democratic values.

Particularly at a time when BJP is pushing its agenda by invading even the food habits and culture of citizens. Many look to the Congress to take up the challenge. Congress regaining its pristine glory would also lead to emergence of a two party system in the country now saddled with far too many political parties due to sub division and fragmentation of political parties in the last decade or two.

Be that as it may for the present state of the Congress it has to blame its central leadership. The party has even now roots in many areas and is politically relevant. It is time for the leadership to take note of the short comings and handicaps of the party and take corrective steps. Running away from responsibilities can be ruinous to a political party.


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