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CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

 

FROM THE DIRECTOR'S DESK
SEEMA MUSTAFA | 14 JANUARY, 2014

Congress scion Rahul Gandhi has spoken briefly—hinted really— about making the party more responsive to the people of India. He has not come out with a plan of course, but after the Congress party's defeat in the Assembly elections he did appear to be looking for solutions that would help the party make a comeback of sorts in the Lok Sabha elections.

However, it seems unlikely that he will be able to do much, simply because the Congress creatures are too addicted to high comfort levels with an inbuilt resistance to any change that could take away from this. The Nehru-Gandhi family included. Even a minimal change for the better will require a Herculean effort that the Congress leaders are incapable of now, so steeped are they in the culture of arrogance, corruption, and abject callousness and indifference to the people. The entire organisation needs to be turned inside out, upside down, for it to even begin to respond to the people, and that clearly is not going to happen.

There has been talk in the newspapers of the 'young brigade' being brought in with Rahul Gandhi to give a new image to the party. What the Congress managers fail to realise is that even these so called young leaders have fallen into the old ways, and are barely able to articulate even verbal responses to issues that could suggest a new thought, or a new approach. It is the same old worn out wheel that keeps churning with the Pilots and the Scindias unable (and perhaps even incapable of) to give new direction to a rudderless party.

Rahul Gandhi has handpicked a 100 brand ambassadors for a publicity campaign to be launched this month. These brand ambassadors will be divided into 50 teams, each led by a MP. These teams will explain the Congress stand on issues to the 10-15 constituencies under their charge. Basically they will be entrusted to talk about the UPA achievements in the past ten years for somehow the party top brass believes that this has been the major drawback —the supposed failure to highlight the government's achievements. This again demonstrates the Congress disconnect with the masses, as it is not a question of achievements but of the gross mis-management, mis-governance underlined by the highly visible arrogance and apathy that the party has become famous for.

The people in election time always weigh the pluses with the minuses, and in the case of the Congress the last are so weighty that even the little plus seen in the implementation of some of the poverty alleviation schemes disappears completely. Corruption is just one issue to which the Congress has no answers. Secularism and security is the other, where the Congress governments in the states and the Centre have been aggressive and pro-active in harassing and victimising innocent members of the minority community. The inability to counter the growth of communal forces through a firm secular campaign has been the hallmark of the 10-year-old UPA government, where concessions were given repeatedly to those bent on dividing and polarising India on religious lines. The Congress has found no answers to the caste issue, with gimmicky overtures by Rahul Gandhi , failing to impress the Dalit voters even in Congress ruled states like Maharashtra. Price rise, agrarian unrest, land acquisition, disparate growth weighed against the poor, a skewed foreign policy are just some of the big issues that the Congress teams will have to deal with.

Rahul Gandhi must be a nice person, in an ordinary drawing room. Sweet, affable, and clearly with a generous disposition. But does he understand India? Can he even act on what he does understand? Does he have the political acumen to grasp the complexities; the ability to evolve an effective plan of action; the determination to ensure its implementation? The answers to these basic questions seem to be in the negative, as the yet-to-be-declared Prime Ministerial candidate of the Congress party seems to be falling far short of the measurements that the country is looking for.

The Congress party is facing decimation. The people have turned against it, even in states where it has a presence or where it had started looking up. Uttar Pradesh remains the big elusive bastion where the Congress, despite all efforts by its scion, has been unable to make a dent in the lost support base of the upper castes, Muslims and Dalits. All seem to have been irretrievably lost to the Congress, except in some small pockets where the local leaders have managed to make an impression on one or some of these sections. The party has still not evolved a strategy to regain the lost base, and even now does not seem to realise that it is not these teams that look good on paper that will re-energise the party, but its ability to take a stand on issues that concern the electorate of India.

The mealy-mouthed approach that the Congress seems to have perfected over the last decades merely prepares the ground for others with more definite views to take over. The soft flirtation with communalism, for instance, worked to the advantage of the BJP and its parivar that has raced ahead in exploiting the field fertilised by the Congress party. Will Rahul Gandhi do the unthinkable, and actually take positions on issues that affect the people? Can he? Given the state of the Congress and the limitations of the individuals in decision making slots, the answers to these questions is a No.