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Updated: May 21, 2014 04:41 IST

Cadre seethe at stage-managed resignations

Smita Gupta
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For the Congress, the leadership dilemma is more complicated than in other political parties.

The way the Congress Working Committee (CWC) rejected the resignations offered by party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi and muted criticisms over the functioning the organisation over the last few years have left the party workers “seething with anger.”

Party sources said the resignations were “stage-managed” to ensure that the focus at the CWC meeting was on persuading the Gandhis to stay on, and thus other senior functionaries — like many of the general secretaries in-charge of States — were spared the rod.

The rest of the meeting, barring some critique of the party’s and the UPA government’s failure to communicate its achievements and counter the Opposition’s criticism, was devoted to platitudes about the need not to be demoralised as there are a host of Assembly elections in the offing.

For the Congress, the leadership dilemma is more complicated than in other political parties.

Across the board, there is unanimity that without a member of the Gandhi-Nehru family at the helm of affairs, the party will disintegrate. Indeed, despite the anger, there is still no challenge to the family.

While there is recognition that Mr. Gandhi has failed the party, with some saying he lacks the capability to provide a strong leadership that can inspire workers, there is an equally firm conviction that the only change possible is for Ms. Gandhi to take full charge of the organisation once again. As for Mr. Gandhi, he should stay out of public view and open himself to people outside his coterie.

“He [Mr. Gandhi] needs to completely change his style of functioning. He needs to listen to ‘political’ people in the party. He needs to dump the ‘outsourced’ spokespersons and get in only political faces,” a Congress leader said.

In short, the party cannot do without the Gandhis, so if they cannot deliver, they need to change the way they operate. This is the message that is emerging from conversations with different sections of the Congress.

One of the first things that Mr. Gandhi and his team had planned was to restructure all State units, starting with the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, using the methods used in the Youth Congress. Party leaders insist that these methods have rendered the Congress’s youth front completely non-functional. After the party’s humiliating defeat in these general elections, Mr. Gandhi, party sources said, will face a great deal of resistance to effect these changes.

If there is anger at caretaker Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his team in government, there is also hostility now to what is being described as “feudalism and arrogance” of not just the Gandhis but also the party functionaries, who were the most visible over the last few years.

But given the Congress’s leadership dilemma, party sources say, its best case option is for Ms. Sonia Gandhi to assume full command once again and gradually enlarge daughter Priyanka Gandhi’s role. The Congress’s fortunes, its members believe, are entwined with that of the Gandhis.

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