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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Rahul Gandhi and Congress: it’s time to confront questions, not accept excuses

PoliticsRahul Gandhi and Congress: it's time to confront questions, not accept excuses

The outcome of the “transformation people cannot even imagine” was that the Congress got zero seats for the first time in history with a bare 9.7 per cent of the votes two years later in 2015.

The party muddled along for another five years and the achievement in the 2020 Delhi polls was even worse: zero seats and 4.26 per cent votes.

This is relevant today because the sycophants who don’t want any radical transformation always conspire to find a silver lining in the dark clouds, convincing the leadership that the crisis is not so deep. They will dig up something to dilute the gravity of the message hidden in every defeat to ensure business as usual. Rahul, as one of the chief arbiters at the top of the party, cannot escape responsibility.

Rahul knew that a large number of MLAs faced strong anti-incumbency in Rajasthan but yielded to Ashok Gehlot’s pressures. Election strategist Sunil Kanugolu was sent to Madhya Pradesh, but Kamal Nath brooked no interference.

Kamal Nath not only ran a hard Hindutva campaign, including public worship of “godmen” like Bageshwar Baba, but also displayed open disdain for INDIA constituents and policy decisions adopted unanimously by the grouping. It was as if Kamal Nath headed his own version of the Congress.

The party was bound to suffer because of the central leadership’s infirmities. Why did the high command allow the Gehlot-Sachin Pilot duel drama to linger on so close to the elections?

And on the organisational front, does Rahul not know, for a start, that his party’s booth management is a joke compared with the BJP’s? Several mechanisms to monitor feedback and manage elections were proposed at the Udaipur conclave and endorsed at the Raipur plenary of the AICC.

Mallikarjun Kharge not only failed to create those mechanisms, he took months to constitute the Congress Working Committee. Ask any senior leader whether the organisation is fighting fit for the parliamentary elections, preparations for which will start in a month or two, and you get derisive laughter in response.

The system of having a post-mortem after failure in an election has been buried alive. Along with ritualistic expressions like “we will learn from our mistakes and keep working for the interests of the people”, escapist excuses like an improvement in the voting percentage are offered to protect those who are really accountable for the irreversible decline in the party’s fortunes.

After each electoral shock, the party is back to business as usual within weeks and office-bearers start flexing their muscles again, ensuring that the status quo is not disturbed.

Earlier, Randeep Surjewala did the talking; now Jairam Ramesh does it. The minions spread the message like parrots. After the miserable defeats in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh in 2022, Surjewala said: “We will introspect on the causes of defeat, work on the organisation and will try to do better in future. We are definitely disappointed but not demoralised. We have only lost the election, not courage. We are not going anywhere — we will keep fighting until we win. We will reinvent and return and will come back with a new strategy.”

The strategy is the same. To use the pet expression of the incumbent communications chief Ramesh: three Ds – dilute, divert and digress.

Ramesh said after Sunday’s results: “It is true that the performance of the Congress in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan was disappointing and far below our own expectations. But the vote shares tell a story of a Congress that is not very behind the BJP — in fact, it is within striking distance. This is the reason for hope and revival. Chhattisgarh: BJP 46.3 per cent, INC 42.2 per cent; Madhya Pradesh: BJP 48.6 per cent, INC 40.4 per cent; Rajasthan BJP 41.7 per cent, INC 39.5 per cent.”

The truth is, today’s political matrix and power balance can barely be compared with what it was two decades ago.

The “preparations” have been so serious that the party is not in a position to win a single seat on its own in Delhi even in 2024. Has the party’s plight improved in Odisha, Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and that big state of Uttar Pradesh? No. Has Rahul unleashed the forces of revival in these states? Party leaders know the reality. Except for the remarkable Bharat Jodo Yatra, the party has done nothing politically in the last three decades to reclaim its lost glory.

Ramesh, who knows his mathematics, can offer such explanations even if the numbers are not that close. He had said after the Gujarat rout: “The election results in Gujarat are disappointing for us. The vote share of the Congress dropped from 40 per cent to 27 per cent. But a 27 per cent vote share is a foundation and it is not difficult for us to again increase the vote share to 40 per cent.”

Ramesh has the ability to create confusion using history as well. He said: “Exactly 20 years ago, the Congress had lost the state elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, while winning only Delhi. But within a few months, the party bounced back and went on to emerge as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha polls and formed the government at the Centre (in 2004). It is with hope, confidence and a firm sense of resolve and resilience that the Congress prepares for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.”

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