Harsha Raj Gatty
Mar 20: Praises, lauds, sycophancy and patronisers! Will soothsaying help Congress at 2019 polls or does the party need some serious introspection? For a party which is resting on a political ventilator, and hopes ally support at 2019 General Election will probably keep it going, the Indian National Congress seems to be too obsessed with its self-image at the 84th plenary session, and away from reality.
"Rahul Gandhi will unfurl the Tricolour from the Red Fort next year," said Congress leader Navjot Sidhu. Former National President of Congress Sonia Gandhi said PM Narendra's Modi’s pre-poll promises 'Dramebaazi'. In the backdrop of sloganeering of 'Bharat Maata Ki Jai' by the party workers, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tore into Central government's stand on Jammu and Kashmir policy and terrorism, whereas former finance minister Chidambaram took on the Central government on demonitisation issues. But at its 84th plenary session, the discussion on the future of the INC itself was of little interest for anyone, it seemed.
The two-day event, in which thousands of party leaders and workers across the country participated, was presumed to showcase the party's new-drawn strategies and alternate political narrative against the party's political nemesis BJP. Spontaneous feedback and reflecting upon critical concerns of the party workers from the grass-root may have helped the Congress for its revival, but Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi was tasked to stage-manage the entire show from the background, from crowd mobilization to editorial intervention in the speakers addresses. This left the entire audience, with dearth of fresh perspectives or take-away's on the state-of-affairs of the nation from opposition point of view and rather ended up being another one sided-rant with resemblance to a political rally.
Consider any popularity surveys released by non-politically-affiliated entities such as PEW research, India Today-Karvy, ABP News-Lokniti-CSDS, C-Voter, Times-group or so on. Hands down these agencies have found the public mandate in 2019 seems to be in the favor of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While it is one thing to call these survey's as 'paid' or blame it on the alleged botched-up EVMs during elections, does the ground reality for the grand old party reflect otherwise?
Post-2014 General Assembly elections the BJP by and large won series of popular mandates, both at the local bodies and across 21-states. Whereas on the other side, Congress saw itself on a decline. In a matter of four years the Congress lost power in 11 states right under its nose and retains power in four more states. Similar fate awaits the Congress in Rajya Sabha where the party with its 57-member Rajya Sabha membership has turned into a minority, while BJP along with its allies has 73 Rajya Sabha members (considering walkout by Telugu Desam Party with six RS members), and 15 more likely to add to BJP at the upcoming elections.
But at this weekend session of the Congress, first since Rahul Gandhi took over as the President of the Congress - the statements from its leaders made it obvious that the party seem to be living in a denial. Besides a few structural amendments at the organization level, dialogues were largely attacking the BJP led government. But the introspection over the party's present status, motivation of its party followers and the much needed blueprint for its revival in the 2019 election was missing.
Even the party president Rahul Gandhi did not seem to have impressed the audience with any new political narrative, instead it seemed that the 47-year-old leader was addressing another of his political rally, for which he received the obvious applause from the seated party cadres.
As an opposition, GST, demonetisation, communal politics seem to be the new catch-phrase of the party - akin to its earlier Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. The party just does not seem to get it that the people by large have matured and understood that such socio-economic dynamics will remain in the mainstream, irrespective of any party coming to power.
However, by remaining on a defensive mode and vaccum of an effective counter ideologue, the Congress seems to be submitted to BJP's brand of politics. As it is, the recent statement by Sonia Gandhi that the party does not want to project itself as a 'Muslim party' has miffed the community members. In pursue of power, the party is also on the verge of losing its secular credentials, which will be monetised in the upcoming Karnataka election by parties such as Akbaruddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Social Democratic Party of India and Janatha Dal (S) to garner minority votes. These events are forseeable and yet the top party brass wants to continue living in its bubble, surrounded by the coterie of soothsayers, including those switching between stand-up comedy shows and politics.
Between the departure of senior Congress leaders like Rita Bahuguna Joshi and S M Krishna and arbitrary firing of its leaders who criticises the Gandhi leadership, can Congress president Rahul Gandhi come clean? Somewhere draw the line and take wholesome responsibility for the party, as-well as the poll results, instead of taking fly-by-night trips at the backdrop of any electoral losses?
Else it is not unnatural even for a loyal party voters to reconsider their ballot to other parties or even hold their adult-franchise if they feel the 132-year-old party is not serious about itself. After all, anyone would feel embarrassed to know that he placed his bet on the wrong side.
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