Leaderless, rudderless

The Congress is taking too long to find a successor to Rahul Gandhi, who resigned as its president last month and confirmed last week that he would not reconsider his decision. The party’s working committee, which was expected to appoint a new president, has postponed its meeting and the decision. It is not known when it is going to meet again. The party lost over a month’s time trying to persuade Rahul Gandhi to continue. There is confusion and uncertainty in the party at all levels. A number of middle level and junior leaders have resigned after Rahul Gandhi quit his position, in seeming sympathy with him. They have not said they would not return to their positions, as he did, and some have even indicated that they are ready for higher positions. Overall, there is a drift and leadership vacuum, and it is hurting the party. 

The lack of leadership and direction from the centre has contributed in no small measure to the dire situation the party and its government are facing in Karnataka. It was decisive action immediately after the announcement of the results of the state assembly elections last year that led to the formation of the present coalition government. Now, different leaders at various levels are trying to do the firefighting. The same kind of crisis or other difficult situations may arise in other states, too. It is not just a matter of tackling crisis situations. The party can hardly claim to be functioning normally now. It needs to immediately find a leader who will be able to handle such shocks, inspire its workers and followers, overhaul its present organisational and leadership structures, give it a new orientation, and make it a dynamic political party that relates to the problems and aspirations of the people of the country now. 

It is important that the process of selection and appointment of the leader is democratic. Much of the party’s present difficult situation can be attributed to the lack of democracy within it. When it looks for a leader it should resist the temptation to follow its tradition of imposing the decision of a coterie on the party in the garb of consensus or other pretences. In fact, the legitimacy and credentials of those who may decide on a new leader may even be questioned. Ideally, the party should go through the democratic process from the bottom upwards to find a new leader. It may not have the time for that now. But it can find a leader who is independent and empowered and is vested with enough political authority, and who can take it on the course of becoming a vibrant and democratic party. 

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