“You got the control of a handful of towns and cities because National Conference and People’s Democratic Party stayed away (boycotted civic elections), and the Congress did such a poor job of putting up a fight….”
This was National Conference number two Omar Abdullah’s response (of course tweet) to BJP pointman on Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav’s earlier query on whether NC and PDP stick to their early stand of boycotting elections until the issues related to 35A were resolved. Madhav’s query came as against this stand both the Kashmir centric political parties have now been demanding dissolution of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and hold fresh polls.
Omar left no one in doubt about his party’s intention when in the same tweet and in a rather too hyperbolic fashion he asked Madhav, “Do you think we will give you walkover in the Assembly polls?”
It is debatable whether NC and Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP should have boycotted the civic elections particularly when kith and kin of many of their senior leaders subsequently took the circuitous route of contesting as independent candidates with active support of the leaders if not the parties directly. But Omar’s reference to Congress messing up its own case when there was a golden opportunity for the faction ridden party to close their ranks and encash upon the strong anti-BJP sentiment in Jammu region and fill the void created by NC-PDP boycott in Kashmir Valley, needs to be put in a proper context. It does not mean that the NC and PDP houses are in-order to check new and emerging political challenges in the state particularly in Kashmir. And that is why his worry on Congress coming a cropper.
While Omar’s father and veteran of all political ceremonies Dr Farooq Abdullah is busy sewing opposition unity at the national levels to take on Narendra Modi in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, his worry on Congress doing “such a poor job…” is an important reference in the context of if not numerically ( six Lok Sabha seats) but politically sensitive hilly state. It is another matter that the Congress on its part is unmindful of all such factors and the role that it could play to bring political stability in the State and on a wider scale at the national levels.
With Lok Sabha elections six months away and a strong possibility of Assembly polls taking place around the same time Congress has onerous task at hand particularly after the near rout in the civic elections. There is a strong case for a total overhauling of the party set-up in the State as there is hardly any time left for Congress president Rahul Gandhi to emulate his model, followed at the AICC level, of bringing gradual changes.
A prerequisite for effective overhauling should be that national leaders should view the state unit from a prism of impartiality where there should be no scope for favouritism. At the same time personal likes and dislikes should take a back seat and more credible and fresh faces should be brought forward. The total lack of inspiring leadership right from the state down to the block levels is the bane of Congress’s current crisis. It goes without saying that the party’s central leadership has from time to time contributed in bringing situation to the current pass through hoisting and foisting individuals simply on the basis of personal affiliations rather than assessing their on-ground efficacy to deliver. Accountability as is the case at the AICC levels has been biggest casualty in highly sensitive, politically as well as strategically, Jammu and Kashmir.
The debacle in civic elections has still not spurred the Congress strategists into a stock taking exercise so as to set the house in order. Neither any initiative seems to have been taken by the State leadership nor the AICC bosses in-charge of the state’s affairs looking to be in any hurry to act. This inaction is inexplicable from the public perspective.
Not that Omar, unlike his father, is a seasoned political campaigner but he is straight jacketed with a penchant for plain speaking. He shares this quality or lack of that, with Rahul Gandhi which is considered as a negative trait in the traditional Indian politics. Traditionalists might consider it as a negative trait but not the wider spectrum of concerned citizens of India particularly the state.
So, Omar’s pointed reference to Congress doing such a poor job in civic elections should at least be taken as a cue by Rahul if not a warning about the mess in which his party is in. Sceptics might laugh it off that good or bad performance in a civic election should not be cause of worry or reason for a thorough analysis. It could be true of normal circumstances and it could be true in case of any other state but in case of Jammu and Kashmir with many theories lurking overhead as how to tackle challenges, Omar’s pointer should have a deeper meaning for top brass of the Congress.
At this crucial juncture Congress high command could ill afford to be complacent and let the status quo prevail. Overhauling of the party structure but not before fixing responsibility of the state leadership and making them accountable for failing to seize the golden opportunity to strike back, is the only way forward. Overhauling without holding anyone accountable for the civic polls failures would only create a precedent and a model to be followed in future by those who love to play the game of favouritism for personal and vested interests.