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Cong must look beyond first family

DH News Service Bengaluru Nov 24 2017, 1:54 IST

Rahul Gandhi's elevation to the highest position in the Congress has been a chronicle foretold long ago but held in suspense for many reasons. Even in the unlikely event of a contest, the outcome is more than certain. Congressmen feel that elections would weaken the party and only a Nehru-Gandhi family member can hold it together. The party is going through a slide in the past many years and this is in no small measure and is mostly due to the inadequacy or absence of internal democracy. For Rahul, getting himself elected as the leader may be easy, but being accepted as an effective and legitimate leader who can revive and rejuvenate the party and take the fight to the BJP, which dominates the political arena now, is difficult.

Rahul has been waiting in the wings for many years and invited the charge of being a reluctant or absent politician. Is he the right choice for the Congress to lead its resurgence? Many, perhaps rightly, think he is not. Rahul has virtually been leading the Congress in the last few years after his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi's health deteriorated. And the party lost almost every election during this period. Thus, Rahul has failed to prove himself. This has exposed his weaknesses, and also raised doubts over his capacity to lead a pan-India party like the Congress. Should the Congress look for a leader outside its first family? Possibly yes. In a politically crucial state like Uttar Pradesh, the party was humiliated in the last two Assembly elections, and there, Rahul was very visible during the campaign trail. The Congress was reduced to its lowest-ever strength in the Lok Sabha after the 2014 elections. Only two states where the party won convin cingly were Karnataka, over four years ago, and in Punjab this year.

The bigger and greater responsibility lies beyond Gujarat which goes to polls next month. The Congress has a huge national presence but is at its weakest point in history. It has to regain organisational vigour everywhere and has to exorcise many ghosts from the past. There are important state elections, including in Karnataka, to be faced next year, and the party has to be ready for the crucial 2019 general elections. The party has to do some reinventing, present a positive image and agenda, rather than try to make use of the weaknesses and failures of its opponents. The question is whether the Congress, in the absence of a charismatic and powerful leader who can attract the masses, can cope with these challenges and equip the party to face them.

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