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Congress revival possible only by building leadership at local levels
By Brij Bhardwaj
It has no more time for introspection if the Congress party has to revive itself as it is time for action. Two important lessons to flow from the recent debacle in U.P is that it can no more piggy ride on the strength of allies or with alliances with regional parties. Second lesson is that the Gandhi family is no longer a vote puller which can carry it through to victory even if the organisational base is weak.

While major opponent of Congress BJP has a crowd puller, excellent communicator and a vote catcher in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the other hand any time Congress tries to put party Vice President Rahul Gandhi against Mr Modi, it suffers a major debacle. Congress Vice President has to go a long way before he can match the skills of BJP leader who is past master in manipulating issues worrying the masses and by changing goal posts.

No other leader could have managed to talk about "Shamshan Ghats and Kabristans" and development of all in the same breath. He also got away by describing demonetisation of high value currency notes as a drive against the rich and black money holders even though it had hit the poor hard who had to stand in queues to draw their own money. Industrial workers in small industry or daily wage workers who lost their jobs or farmers who could not buy seeds and fertilizers.

Against a leader like Modi and a formidable election machine created by Mr Amit Shah only a ground level organisation and a strong state leader can stand and win polls as in Punjab Congress party could hold its own because of a strong regional leader, a ground level organisation and because the local unit was given freedom to decide strategy and the Party leadership in Delhi did not interfere. Time has come when Congress leadership in States should be allowed to work without imposition of outsiders or favourites of coterie in Delhi.

Congress High Command has no longer the luxury of imposing its writ on State units. If one has a close look at loss of U.P, Assam, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Andhra it can be directly linked to Central leadership's inability to keep its own house in order and giving equal space to all leaders. The dissidents who crossed over to BJP helped it to enter States where it lacked a base or any following. Its failure to build a majority in Goa and Manipur even though it had emerged as single largest party after the poll is also a failure of Central leadership which did not act in time.

Voices are being raised in Congress party by some veterans and young members asking for drastic surgery to revive the party. The call is for dumping the cotrie which with its likes and dislikes has not allowed local leadership to grow. The party leaders feel that party has no future if it does not change the way in which it has been working. Its power base is shrinking and unless the process of revival is started where power flows from roots to top instead of the other way round, it could be reduced to a minor player in 2019.

The country needs a political party committed to secularism, socialism and democracy which the Congress represents. But if Congress is to play this role it has to offer an alternative vision. It has much to offer as the present Government has failed to solve issues like job creation or giving a push to economy. Its claim for working for development of all is also doubtful as it continues to raise issues which lead to polarisation on communal lines.

The attempts by BJP to safronise the education system by rewriting history, limiting space for dissent by attacking all those who hold opposite views in academic world and creating an atmosphere of terror in universities with ABVP, students wing of BJP becoming aggressive. President Pranab Mukerjee has also taken note of these developments by making a plea for tolerance and free speech, an essential part of a democratic country.

Time has come when Congress party stops reacting only and being Modi centric in its attacks on BJP. Instead it should offer its own vision of India and go with a positive program. The emphasis should shift to building party at ground level instead of making cosmetic changes. The group in Delhi who has ruled party despite repeated failures should be given a rest as they have functioned without any accountability.

*(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)

[IFS]


News Updated at : Sunday, March 19, 2017
 
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