Top leadership fails Congress

Top leadership fails Congress

Top leadership  fails Congress

Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi’s words about the Congress have proved prophetic.

In an interview earlier this month, he had predicted “a serious churning within the Congress party over the issue of leadership’’ if its tally fell below 100 seats.

The 128-year organisation got only 44 seats and a 19.3 per cent vote share - a disastrous performance that sounds the death knell for the party unless it goes in for an urgent surgical exercise.

The knives are out and the blame game has even reached the doorsteps of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi, and the team of advisors steering the 2014 elections whose outcome was visible to all but those shutting their eyes to it.

The Congress now faces an existential crisis---a crisis of credibility, leadership, organisation and social appeal.

Unable to get a single seat in 19 states and Union Territories, the party’s humiliation was complete when the BJP usurped its claim of being a pan-India party and secured, under Modi, a simple majority of 282 seats on its own in the Lok Sabha, thereby setting the stage for an end to the coalition era in Indian politics—a script Sonia thought she would write for Rahul some day.

Where did things start going wrong for the party which had won  in 2004 and then again in 2009?

The 2014 results virtually squeezed the life breath out of the party battered by price rise, inflation, allegations of corruption in high places, 10 years of incumbency and a drift in governance.

But the real problem lay in the manner in which the top leadership failed the party.

Manmohan Singh remained ineffective as prime minister in UPA-2. Blinded in her motherly love, 67-year old Sonia persisted in passing on her mantle to Rahul who, barring the stray victory of 21 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2009, remains a non- starter. He lost Goa and could not stop Modi in Gujarat in 2012. 

Yet he was elevated as vice president at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir in January 2013 as a hope for the year-end polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and the 2014 general elections. 

Rahul failed yet again. And the party was bombed out of existence. 

The Amethi MP, who sought to transform the Youth Congress, failed to transform himself.

Inaccessible and unavailable to his workers, his refusal to join the government painted him as a shirker of responsibility and pitched him as a poor opponent to Modi, the four time chief minister of Gujarat who used every available technology and technique towards a ``Congress mukt Bharat.’’

Despairing Congressmen are now pinning their dying hopes on Priyanka Vadra as they seek redemption in a Congress, led not by an uninspiring  Rahul, but a troika of Priyanka-Sonia-Rahul in that order.

Reviving party

Meanwhile, the burden of reviving the Congress has once again fallen on Sonia  who had reinvented and led the party to victory in 2004.

But in the 10 years the UPA was in power, she ignored the organisation which is weak especially in UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu or Gujarat which add up to 226 seats in the Lok Sabha. She and Rahul paid the price for this in 2014.

The party drew a blank in the last two states.

Sonia’s response to the latest catastrophe was to shield Rahul from attack and accountability.

She took the blame and offered to quit---a gesture emulated by Rahul. As expected, the Congress Working Committee on May 19 rejected the offers, indicating that only the Gandhi name---even if the shine has gone out it---remains their best bet yet.

But those looking for a signal of a fightback were disappointed.

There was no word of a workers meeting or a brain-storming session or ways on how to rebuild the party-worker-voter connect.

Not surprisingly, there was an outburst shortly after from youngsters like Milind Deora and Priya Dutt who were part of Rahul’s charmed circle but have now lost the polls.

Deora slammed the “advisors’’ for not sensing the popular mood and “those’’ who accepted the flawed advise—“those’’ seen to stand for Rahul.

The voices seeking introspection and follow-up action would get louder in the coming days raising fears of mass desertions or a revolt.

The seeds of the 2014 debacle were sown in UPA-2 itself in the imbalance in party-government, government-allies and intra-ministerial relations.

The imbalance worsened when the Sonia-Rahul diarchy turned into a triad of Rahul, Sonia and Singh---the Congress’s own `RSS’ with the Amethi MP and his team of youngsters and backroom boys in a silent face-off with the party’s old guard.

Absence of consultations on ticklish issues like rising prices or FDI in multi brand retail upset allies like Mamata Banerjee who broke off with the UPA lest Trinamool Congress had to bear the burden of the Centre’s incumbency in West Bengal.

All this damaged the Congress and some government decisions stripped it of its social appeal.

The mishandling of the Anna Hazare’s agitation over the Jan Lokpal bill or the protests by youngsters of the Delhi rape case saw the middle class and the youth shifting their loyalty to newbie Aam Aadmi party in the Delhi Assembly polls and to Modi in the Lok Sabha polls. 

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