Chintan Shivir exposes Congress confusion

Arun Srivastava
The Chintan shivir is not the panacea of the malaise that inflicts the Congress. Significantly, Congress under Sonia Gandhi has been regularly holding such shivirs. But the shivirs have failed to rejuvenate and revitalise the organisation and provide a new direction. On the contrary the party has been consistently drowning in the quagmire of lack of political will and ideological disillusionment. It is noticed that the internal bickerings raises its ugly head after these shivirs.
On the concluding day on Sunday, Rahul Gandhi lamented that the Congress’ connection with people has ‘broken’ and it needs to be re-established. But he did not spell out the reasons for breaking down of the connection and what mechanism should be adopted to re-establish it. Claiming to be the leader of the party he should have clarified these two points at the shivir as it would have furnished the necessary inputs to the participants to think over. His rhetoric that our fight is for ideology is misleading. If at all ideology was at stake, he ought to have not behaved in such an erratic manner. He has formed the habit of issuing tweets instead of reaching out directly to the people. In a late realisation he nevertheless said ” we have to go to the people and sit with them”. It is good finally he has come to realise this bare fact.
Acknowledging that the Congress’ connection with people has been broken, Rahul Gandhi urged party leaders to shift their focus from internal matters to re-establishing the connect through concerted outreach efforts. Since he is in politics for quite some time and is supposed to be the public face of the party, he must be knowing when and under what circumstances the cadres and leaders focus on internal matters ignoring the political task.
Hailing the party’s steps for the youth, Gandhi said, I think the idea that a certain number of positions should be for young people is an important idea. I am not saying there should be no older people. I am saying that when it comes to District Congress Committees, Block Congress Committees, and the leadership, we should have a healthy mix of youngsters and seniors. And I think the time has come that where we aggressively do this.” Who prevented the Congress leadership from resorting to this policy. As the president of the party he should have initiated this policy.
Gone are the days when the Congress used to be a platform where people can hold deliberations without any fear or worry. If it had been the case, the emergence of group of 23 might not have taken place. This is a sad commentary on the functioning of the Congress, even the senior leaders are not mustering courage to speak the truth and come out with the suggestion. It is the word of the Gandhi family that is final verdict. Sonia Gandhi must change this. By reiterating all such rhetoric Rahul cannot absolve himself of the responsibility. He ought to do some introspection and come out with the reply. He must face the cadres and local leaders.
If he has been really interested in entering into conversation, he should not have resigned from the party chief in the manner he did. May be he should be excused for his act. But still the question remains why he did not pursue the politics of conversation in later years. What prevented him? The simple answer, according to me is his ego. He simply converses and listens to his coterie. “The instruments of this conversation, the mechanism of this conversation are the institutions that the Congress party, that your great leaders
The party ought to signal a pro-poor welfare shift, but it has to be cautious of the malignant attack from the urban middle class. They have been primary responsible for creating public opinion. They survive on skewed and false notions. For them serving their class interest is supreme. They have been primarily responsible for bringing Narendra Modi to the office of he prime minister. Rahul must rewind the past events. It was his statement that scared the middle class and conjured them to take to Congress bashing line. They supported the political line propounded by L K Advani. Incidentally Modi grabbed the situation and projected himsf as the saviour of the country with the tacit support of the middle class.
The Congress on Saturday declared an intent to reset its economic policies, signalling a pro-poor welfare shift whose contours will be known after the completion of the ongoing Chintan Shivir here. Former finance minister P. Chidambaram, who heads the party’s committee on economy, clarified that “reset” did not mean “stepping back” from “the policies of economic liberalisation but stepping forward post-liberalisation”. There is no doubt that Congress should focus for the welfare and upward mobility of the poor and dalit, but it also ensure that middle class which has turned the Modi bhakt and become devout Hindus, do not get the opportunity to launch a vicious campaign against he Congress. The party has to ensure that their inclination towards BJP and RSS is reconciled and blunted. The Congress leadership must put forward an economic policy that will appeal to the people.
Though the BJP nurses strong averseness to NREGA scheme, the Modi government has been forced to continue with it as this is the only means to serve the poor in the existing situation. It ought to be mentioned that Sonia Gandhi had forced the party a decade ago to alter the contents of its liberalisation policy by introducing a strong welfare thrust, which resulted in measures such as the MGNREGA scheme – the 100-day rural employment guarantee drive – the Food Security Act and several pieces of rights-based legislation. Incidentally Rahul Gandhi had proposed in 2019 the Nyay scheme that sought to offer a fixed income support to the poor.
The Congress is now trying to incorporate that spirit in its future economic policy. The Congress leadership must realise that pursuing the policy of soft Hindutva will not rescue the party from the present crisis. It has to put in place high voltage anti poor policy and programme. In fact coming down of a section of the middle class to the rank of poor during the pandemic has made them realise that they were living in the world of fools’ paradise and make believe. They had fled to the villages and survived in their thatched houses during the pandemic.
Rahul has expressed his concern at the breaking down of Congress’ connection with people. He had announced his intention to undertake a yatra in October to re-establish and strengthen it. But once again he has chosen the populist mechanism. Yatras have lost their relevance and utility. If at all he is really interested in renewing connect with the people he must approach the poor directly at their doors and apprise them of the futility of the Modi’s policies. He can claim by undertaking yatra he would have be meeting the people. But it would different connotation than reaching out to the poor at their doors.
The party has rightly adopted one family one ticket policy, but the emphasis on the wide-ranging reforms in the party organisation to make it battle-ready for the next round of assembly and Lok Sabha polls is very weak. The fact is party must inculcate confidence in the local leaders and cadres and refrain the senior leaders from using them to achieve their personal interest. It is usually seen that the state leaders treat them as their helping hand. This tendency could be curbed in promoting the seasoned leadership who have been devoted to the cause of the party. (IPA)