Wake up call for Congress

Anil Anand
The Indian National Congress is finding itself at strange crossroads and mired in a dilemma as to which route it should adopt to reach the destination. The destination in this case is to prepare for the fight or revival ahead of Lok Sabha-2019 elections. This dilemma is the creation of two sets of people or leaders who are presiding over the destiny of this historic political party; the ones who really have to lead but are reluctant to do so and secondly those true “sportspersons” who are not prepared to hang their boots come what may even if it is at their own peril.
This self-destructive dilemma has the backdrop of a strange feeling that perhaps has gripped both sets of leaders, waiting for Narendra Modi Government to commit follies and fail. Definitely Modi dispensation and for that reason any Government would commit mistakes as no one is infallible. But can a political party as big as Congress afford to wait till eternity for such a situation to happen so as to be voluntarily voted back to power by the people? The answer is no to the extent that Congress has to bring its house to order even to be able to encash such a situation particularly when faced with a formidable political rival who is unhesitant to follow the dictum ‘everything is fair in love war and politics’.
BJP is no more the party with a difference and Modi is neither Vajpayee nor Advani. The Congress high command must bear in mind and act accordingly.
The year 2017 is about to turn over into pages of history but there are no signs of preparations for much speculated generational change at the helm. The uncertainty in the organisation is getting deeply entrenched by the day in the face of indecisiveness and resultant haze over route to future. Learning is a never ending process but it has to be simultaneously accompanied by using the acquired knowledge to achieve the desired goals.
Congress vice president is continuously, at least that is the impression created, on a learning curve after being on the verge of finishing his third term as MP. Will he be ultimately anointed as the Congress president or not? This uncertainty coupled with the learning curve not getting translated into action on ground are pushing the grand old party into a deeper crevasse.
The tell-tale signs are more visible as the general elections deadline draws closer. The rumblings are more pronounced both at the AICC and the state unit levels. The herculean set of “sportspersons” including the unpredictable such as former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh are unrelenting in their endeavour to act as bulls in the AICC shop. Some like him are bold enough to bare their teeth while others are in the termite mode. The situation in both these cases is helping Modi achieve his goal of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, if allowed to go unchecked.
A natural corollary to an indecisive party high command failing to chart a futuristic course is that the dissensions are getting shriller in more and more state units. After Goa, Gujarat, Chattisgarh the politically and electorally important state of Bihar is unfolding dangerously for Congress as a section of its MLAs have threatened to cross over to rejoin the Nitish Kumar led and BJP participated ruling coalition. A serious situation has already built up in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh where the old-warhorse octogenarian chief minister Virbhadra Singh wants a total sway or else threatened to chart his own course at Congress’ cost.
A similar scene is building up in Haryana where former Haryana chief minister B S Hooda has not allowed Rahul Gandhi appointed state chief Ashok Tanwar to settle. Of late, he is using his brief but repeated encounters with Prime Minister Modi in the corridors of Central Hall of Parliament as some kind of a stern warning to Congress high command to register him or face the consequences.
The seriousness of the situation could also be gauged from the fact that for the first time in the near past Rahul Gandhi thought of a direct intervention to sooth affairs in Bihar and Himachal Pradesh. The rivals might proverbially call it too little and too late and to a great extent that is true also. The silverlining could be that he has begun to feel the heat at least and the remedy must follow now. He must call the bluff of the ilk of Vibhadra Singh and Hooda in a strategic manner or else be prepared to be consumed by the system they represent.
The time for across the board sweeping changes in the AICC set up and the states is perhaps over at this juncture due to transitional delays and coming electoral battles. A plan of piecemeal changes has already begun to unfold under which the heads of some AICC general secretaries who have presided over the Congress debacle in the states under their charge have started rolling. This process of piecemeal changes requires more urgency and that should include the state units as well.
After letting opportunities slip by in Goa and Manipur, where Congress despite its lead could not form Government, the awry situation in Bihar and Gujarat has left the party rank and file divided and some among the senior leaders are getting emboldened to go on a tangent and against the party line. There are others who are cursing the fate without actually contributing anything towards revival of fortunes.
It is time to wake up more for heir apparent Rahul Gandhi than others. No amount of indecisiveness even regarding his own future course will help either his personal or the Congress’ cause. He should immediately decide to lead from the front as time is not ripe for a non-Nehru-Gandhi family member to lead and steer the party out of the current low. If he decides not to then no time should be wasted in providing an alternative leadership.