The Congress enters 2022 in the midst of the next round of assembly elections and expectedly not on a promising note. Two things have remained unchanged from the party’s perspective- the inherent factionalism gaining intensity by the day and continuing uncertainty on the organizational front despite an election schedule having been announced- as it prepares to face the assembly elections in important states such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Goa and Manipur.
A big discernible change has been the advent of AICC general secretary in charge Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. She has been leading from the front and has taken up the daunting task of reviving the organization in the state and at the same time prepares the party for assembly elections. Currently no one is giving any chance to Congress in the state but whether her trump card in the form of “Ladki hun Lar sakti hum” targeting the women voters would mesmerize them and in turn attract some other sections into the party fold to give it semblance of chance, one will have to wait for some more time.
This glimmer of hope rises from the fact that her varied style of women empowerment has definitely created a buzz which has been evident from the manner in which other parties such as BJP and Samajwadi Party have broken silence and started talking about women related issues. How could one explain that Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a huge women’s rally to announce women-centric welfare and developmental measures as a counter to Priyanka’s campaign? Or even the Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav announcing women welfare schemes.
The weakening of rebellion in the Congress as the Ghulam Nabi Azad led G23 group has almost become a passé has not made any material difference to the overall situation prevailing in the party. The tussle between the old guard and Rahul Gandhi led young turks-the latest theatre of action is Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, with Mr Azad in focus, which will soon have assembly elections- is going on unabated. The only difference now, after the weakening of G23, is that the aimless shots are being fired by the Rahul Gandhi brigade without thinking and planning primarily to check the possibility of collateral loss if say a veteran like Mr Azad or his ilks are forced out of the party.
Correspondingly, there is no strategy to prevent defections and the poaching game of the mighty BJP continues. Even as the party is hoping to do well in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa, the absence of such a strategy will encourage those eyeing the Congress MLAs.
The approach of the Congress strategist remains to be all but reckless. The recklessness, as seen all through 2021, continues to be as glaring on the issue of the party president’s election as well on dealing with the old guard. There is an undeclared war between the de facto and de jure with Mr Gandhi, willingly or unwillingly, finding himself trapped in this cross fire.
None but he himself is to be blamed for this situation as he continues to perform the Congress president’s task de facto, radiating hope to convert it into de jure but without showing any willingness or commitment or a firm plan in-place for future. So, the party enters 2022 in the full blown air of uncertainty on these issues.
Certainly the plans, if any, are not to be divulged in public, as his close aides might like the critics to believe, but total silence and inaction brood no confidence and has in turn been leading to frustration among the rank and file. That is what is currently happening in the Congress. Nuances and symbols go a long way in keeping the hope kindling among the party ranks till the final act is performed. But that is not the case currently.
The 2022 provides an opportunity to Mr Gandhi as well as his strategists to seriously to shun their inaction mode and press the action button in the right earnest. A silver-lining during the year gone by has been that the party has developed a team of good, knowledgeable and vocal spokespersons who have been able to match and even at times beat the much better equipped BJP counterparts on TV debates.
But that alone would not help counter the power of BJP and in state elections that of regional political parties such as Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in UP and others like Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal who though is vehemently opposed to the BJP have their own ambitions which are being fuelled by the Congress’ inaction and Mr Gandhi’s refusal to accept the challenge. The onus lies on him.
The time is ticking fast in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. He must take a firm decision and convey his future plans to the party- whether he would like his de facto status to be changed into de jure. The current situation where status quo and de facto are the watch words cannot be allowed to continue any further. And if still allowed to perpetuate, it will be at the peril of those managing the Congress affairs Mr Gandhi included.
The year 2022 provides another chance for Congress to recognise its duties as the main opposition party and act accordingly. Merely positioning itself for the role of opposition unity’s pivot is not going to help. The party will have to resolve all dilemmas including that of the new president on the way to toning up the organizational network. And more importantly it should perform better in the coming rounds of assembly elections to strengthen its claim to be central to opposition unity.
There is no doubt that Congress is the only national party with pan-India presence but its dwindling graph due to series of electoral debacles during the last decade is weakening its stature by the day thereby encouraging the regional satraps like Ms Banerjee to have pot-shots. This trend needs to be arrested.
There is a chance coming in 2022 with two sets of assembly elections on the cards. The first will be in Punjab, UP, Uttrakhand, Goa and Manipur and the second set will have states such as Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.
The biggest and immediate worry of the Congress, as the first round of elections is at hand, is to stem factionalism. Or else, conclusion is for anyone to fathom.
The message 2022 for Congress is: Act fast or perish.