Dr. DK Giri
In a determined or desperate bid to revive the sagging fortunes of the party, arrest the drift and regain power at the center in 2024, the Indian National Congress went into a huddle like the cricket teams do before a match, from 13 to 15 May, at Udaipur, Rajasthan, one of the two states the Party is in power on its own. The air in Udaipur was rented with slogans of “Congress will rise” and “we shall overcome” etc.
The brainstorming before and during the Chintan Shivir resulted in at least 14 reforms the party has resolved to undertake. To the party members, Congress has announced extensive organizational reforms. But, are they exhaustive to take the party beyond 272 seats in the Parliament with or without alliances? Scanning the changes, the party is seeking to adopt, they seem to make the party look younger, be more regular, internally communicate better, coordinate closer, be more accommodative and democratic.
The reforms include: 50 per cent posts to people less than 50 years; 50 per cent tickets in the next parliamentary elections with the same age criterion; one person, one post; one ticket per family, mandatory experience of minimum 5 years organization work for a second aspirant; a cap of 5 years on tenure for all office bearers.
The party has resolved to fill the vacant posts in the party within 90-120 days, mandated AICC and PCC to meet every year, the CWC, PCC, and DCC to meet every six months in order to relate to SC/ST/OBC/ Minorities and Women. On these five segments, the president will have an advisory council. Furthermore, the party will have a department for integrated communications, 3 more departments for election management, insight and training, a subgroup of CWC for programmes implementation and advice, read feedback, and finally a ‘system’ to monitor and evaluate performance and fix accountability.
All these reforms may well contribute to making the party organization more efficient, and vibrant exuding energy and imparting inspiration to the party workers. These are at best internal, logistical reforms, necessary to inject hope, enthusiasm, and a sense of belonging in the party leaders, and rank-and-file. But are they adequate and attractive to draw people to the party, the re-connect that Rahul Gandhi talked about in his speech? That is the big question the Congress party did not answer with a big idea. The Party leaders are still caught in the web of self-preservation without any fresh approach to solve the problems of viability and winnability they are faced with.
Indubitably, the Congress party has a good number of leaders with talents- social and political intelligence. But they lack a method of identifying the main problem and pooling their intellectual resources plus rich experiences in addressing it. Let us recall the famous words of Albert Einstein, the ‘wisest man’ so far on this earth, “you cannot solve the problem with the same mindset that has created it”. So, unarguably, the mindset has to change. To use another metaphor, if a particular road is not leading you to your desired destination (regaining your support base and power), you will have to find another road.
In order to do both, mindset-change and road-change, the Congress party needs to engage beyond the party. It will not come from within if we believe Einstein. The party did try with the ‘one and only’ advisor around, Prasant Kishore. It, however, beggars’ belief that Congress was talking to a man for advice on rejuvenation, who was a month ago chipping away Congress leaders into another party (TMC) that declared Congress as non-existent. Be that as it may, the Congress, for that matter, any party should not stop seeking support and feedback from outside the party.
Many in the country will like to see a strong and sound Congress party to replace BJP. If not anything, in a healthy democracy, the power should alternate between the parties. Absolute power by any party, Congress in 1970s and 80s, and BJP now, does not augur well for a democracy.
We may downplay the warning by Lord Acton, but democracy suffers in may other ways, if a single party is entrenched in power, and no formidable party to challenge it. In that spirit, may we proffer a few things Congress should do to re-incarnate itself. People may not see any hope in the party in its present form. What People may want to see is “new wine in a new bottle” (a redesigned one).
The new incarnation, rebranding if you like, should consist of taking at least 5 steps. One, fixing the leadership issue without any delay. For all we know, the leader has to be Rahul Gandhi. Why so has an obvious answer needing no elaboration here. The party need not be tentative or defensive about it.
Rahul Gandhi should be profiled in line with his human qualities which constitute a new leadership style. There are leaders across the world who have played to their individual strengths and have won elections.
Second, revamp the ideological platform- many ideas have become controversial and unworkable. Just as a sample, the concept of secularism. Third, reformatting and repositioning the organization in contemporary Indian politics.
We have had Nehru Congress, Indira and Rajiv Congress, and now define Rahul Congress. Fourth, formulate a new set of policies in keeping with the new principles contained in your new ideology. Fifth, a winning campaign strategy aimed at all segments of population, multiple sectors, and covering several issues.
The New resolve in Udaipur is a good start. May we infer that Congress party displayed a new mood to learn and do things in new ways. At the same time, the party must unlearn a few things and relearn some, one of them, is to put the people before the party. And challenge is to identify those people smartly.
Prof. D.K. Giri is a political Analyst and a Commentator.
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