Indecisive Congress, existential battle

Anil Anand
The Congress is fighting the worst existential battle currently than ever before. As if the Narendra Modi-led BJP’s onslaught was not enough and he himself firing on all cylinders to hit at the Congress with the Gandhi family being his prime target, the Modi Government’s organs such as CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax department are coming handy to sharpen the attacks.
So are some of its leaders fighting for their existence or rehabilitation, particularly those who floated the now non-existent, the rebel Group 23. It is quite an irony that what the party could not achieve during happier days, the unity, is discernible but still miles away from being achieved during the literal war time which it is facing currently. At least the joint onslaught of the BJP and Modi Government has led to the G23 rebels see reason to close their ranks and fall in line and try to put up a united face at least in defending the party president Sonia Gandhi and former chief Rahul Gandhi in the wake of ED questioning.
The one noteworthy change after the party’s Udaipur ‘chintanshivir’ held in May last and which is showing results on ground is the AICC communication-media department coming to life. The logically aggressive posturing by the set of party’s spokespersons and leaders has led to Congress not only effectively rebutting the lies being paddled by the BJP through the media/social media, but also helped the party in retrieving some of its space in the media and public domain.
But what has not changed despite promises and resolves made to this regard during the ‘chintanshivir’, is that the party still seems to have no sense of urgency. The decision making is as shoddy as it was before the Udaipur meet, and the attitude of the top leaders as laid back as ever before.
The expression of resolve at the ‘chintanshivir’ that the era of lackadaisical behaviour particularly of the high command was over and that the quick decision-making process with some strong moves was on the cards, had generated a ray of hope among the rank and file. But two months down the line, the situation on this front remains the same. The indecisiveness of the top leadership has again emboldened the self-seekers in the party, and demoralized those who fell in line after erasing the charade of rebellion.
A divided and indecisive Congress has certainly proved to be a boon for the ruling dispensation particularly Prime Minister Mr Modi who has been baying for the blood of the Gandhis in the name of dynastic politics. As a result, more pressure through the Government organs and the BJP’s well-oiled party machinery to keep the Congress house smoldering. The ED’s raids on the party organ National Herald and related establishments and persistent efforts by Delhi Police to time and again encircle AICC headquarters and residences of senior party leaders, are a net outcome of lack of unity and failure to galvanize its cadres on ground to the desired extent.
The AICC has somehow put up a united face, though no worthwhile changes have been made, in the wake of ruling dispensation’s pressure to defang the premier opposition party in line with Mr Modi’s “Congress-mukt Bharat” resolve and target the Gandhi-family. But the state units, from where the AICC is expected to draw strength for any pan-India movement against the ruling BJP, are as fractious as ever before. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Assam and above all the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir- the home turf of the rebel G23 leader Ghulam Nabi Azad- are all mired in factional fights.
The sole reason behind such a situation is the total absence of timely decision making which at times is needed to send a strong message across the organization. The existential fight and decision making will have to go side by side as the quick and strong decision making particularly in appointing the right persons for the right task will provide strength to this fight.
Under the circumstances there could not have been a better symbol of unity than the leader of the rebel group and veteran Congressman, Azad standing in protest at the AICC headquarter gates on the day Mrs Gandhi presented herself before the ED for questioning in the National Herald case. And later addressing a joint press conference with another rebel leader and member of G23 Anand Sharma in her support. Azad had made a comeback to the AICC head-office after two years thereby sounding the death-knell of the rebellion.
Ostensibly, it was a serious miscalculation on Azad’s part to float a rebel group, to ultimately buy peace with the high command (read Gandhis) realizing that in the twilight of his political career, he has no future outside the Congress. It was an even grave miscalculation by the party strategists to have taken longer to reach at a rapprochement with Mr Azad by agreeing to give him a free hand in Jammu and Kashmir, in view of his indispensability, where assembly elections are to be held soon.
The state of affairs of the Congress in the UT, even post this rapprochement, is a classic case of this culture of no-decision-making. The indecision which is the direct result of status quoist approach which has over the decades become synonymous with the Congress, has caused more harm not only in Jammu and Kashmir where the party has to face multiple challenges due to changed politico-Constitutional situation, but likewise in many other states.
The Congress high-ups must bear in mind that the more indecisive they are in affecting organizational changes and bringing out new policies in line with the challenges of the day, the more weakened would be their current existential fight back. Simply waiting for or seeking refuge in the September-October presidential/organizational elections will not serve any purpose. No time buying mechanism that further strengthens status quoist culture will help in the Congress’s survival battle.
In fact, the party high command should adopt the model of changed culture in AICC’s Communication/media department both in terms of first making changes in terms of manpower and secondly adopting new strategies to counter the opponents, at all levels from top to the bottom, from AICC to the state/UT units.
Sense of urgency, right person at the right job and simultaneously weeding out the dead wood, are what can make Congress’s existential fight lethal.