States of the Congress

Ordinarily, > Ajit Jogi’s decision to form a new political party in Chhattisgarh wouldn’t have caused as much as a mild flutter in the Congress. His reputation has been under a cloud for a long while and his importance in the Congress’s scheme of things has declined. Having become the first Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh upon its formation in 2000, he lost the State to the BJP in 2003, which has held it since then; meanwhile, the Congress has frittered an inordinate amount of political capital in trying to defend him in a string of controversies. His exit should have been the opportunity for the Congress to signal its regeneration in the State. But the Congress today is affected by a sense of helplessness. In State after State, crisis has struck in the past few months — from the defections in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to the ‘exit’ of important leaders such as Gurudas Kamat and Himanta Biswa Sarma in Maharashtra and Assam, respectively. There is a tendency for entrenched Congresspersons around the party president and vice-president to see every crisis as a self-serving opportunity to embed themselves as advice-givers. To talk of how the party should be organised and how exactly each crisis may be the moment to hasten Rahul Gandhi’s succession or, alternatively, to put it on hold.

The Gandhi family succession is an issue the Congress grapples with in its own peculiar way, but there is no evidence of the party rectifying its internal organisation to fix the lines of communication and accountability between the high command and the State units. Put simply, the Congress needs to reclaim its political coherence by reassessing the functioning of its general secretaries in working with State leaderships. Run down the list of office-bearers today and there are far too many “young” leaders of old, brought in by Rajiv Gandhi to break the hold of power-brokers. Where is the generational change? There is merit in periodic, mostly unsolicited, advice to the Congress that it must empower its leaders in the States — the party needs to only look at the returns from giving Sachin Pilot a freer hand in Rajasthan. Such advice is also borne of the experience that once the Congress cedes political space to a regional party, it pretty much gets turfed out of the State. But to fulfil its obligation as a democratic opposition, a national party cannot be a conglomerate of State units led by local satraps. The Congress needs to connect the dots to align its Akbar Road headquarters in New Delhi with the State units. The party HQ is in as much need of reform as the Pradesh Congress Committees.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2020 2:33:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/States-of-the-Congress/article14390142.ece

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