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വായന

28 March, 2017

Congress still has life in it

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

While the Congress, which spearheaded India’s freedom movement, has had to yield primacy to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a Congress-free polity is, as of now, a pipe-dream.

The BJP’s spectacular success in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state, in the recent assembly elections, has somewhat clouded the fact that the party which led the country’s administration for as many as 54 of the 70 years of Independence still has life in it.

In the Sikh-majority border state of Punjab, one of the five that went to the polls, the Congress seized power from the Akali Dal-BJP combine, after a gap of 10 years. It also emerged as the largest single party in Goa and Manipur. 

With the BJP’s cyber propagandists constantly berating the grand old party and running down its leader-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi in the social media and large sections of traditional media readily eating out of the ruling establishment’s hands, a superficial reader is apt to have an unfavourable impression about their recent performance.

However, Indiaspend.org, a data-driven, public interest journalism portal, after analysing voting figures from 10 states where elections were held after Modi led the BJP to victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, reported that the Congress party has fared better since then.

“The Congress has actually improved its strike rate in terms of number of seats won per seats contested, although it has contested fewer seats,” it said. “Not only that, it has also improved its vote share.”

On the basis of its Lok Sabha poll performance the Congress could only have got 13 per cent of the votes polled and won 194 assembly seats in the 10 states. It actually secured 25 per cent of the votes and secured 258 seats.

The figures show that the Congress is down but not out. However, it has cause to worry. Fortune-seeking politicians turn to rising stars. That explains why small parties and independents in Goa and Manipur jumped into the BJP bandwagon after the assembly elections, leaving the Congress, the largest party, in the lurch.

Many party veterans, assuming that the Congress ship is sinking, are ready to jump out and the BJP is ready to pick up and rehabilitate them. Ahead of the UP elections, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, a former state party chief and daughter of a former Congress chief minister, had walked over to the BJP. She is now a minister in the Adityanath cabinet.

Last week, in Karnataka, the only southern state where the Congress now wields power, former chief minister SM Krishna, who had been a Congressman for half a century, joined the BJP and received an enthusiastic welcome.

In a television interview, Krishna said the Congress did not have a leader who was a match for Modi. That was a reflection of his assessment of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, with whom he did not enjoy as close a relationship as he had with their predecessors, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Modi, no doubt, is currently the country’s most powerful and most successful election campaigner. But he is not the kind of leader one would associate with the Congress which had at its helm charismatic personalities like Gandhi, Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

At this critical juncture in its history, the Congress needs not a politician who can hold people in thrall with slogans but a statesman with a clear vision of the country’s future as one illumined by the ideals of justice – social, economic and political – which constitutes the core of the Constitution.

Many view dynastic burden as the Congress party’s main problem. They forget that it was free from this burden in the 1990s. Sonia Gandhi accepted the party post as Congressmen implored her. She served it well by holding it together for many years. However, she proved unequal to the task of rebuilding the party organisation, which Indira Gandhi did not even take up.

Rahul Gandhi’s induction as party General Secretary in 2007 and Vice-President in 2013 were the first steps towards transfer of leadership to him. The coterie that surrounds Sonia Gandhi has sabotaged smooth transition actuated by gross self-interest. If the party wants him at the top the sooner he takes over the better. If what it wants is another leader, it should quickly find one so that he has sufficient time to prepare the party for the parliamentary elections which are just two years away. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, March 28, 2017.

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