Strong Congress critical for democracy to survive

By Santosh Bhartiya

People in the Congress party called Jairam Ramesh a “new Congressman”. “In 2004 he was ‘not’ in the Congress and now he has identified the dangers beset the party, which in the end will make it irrelevant”, they said. But are the questions posed by Jairam Ramesh offhanded? Although it is important how the people in the Congress react on them, but even more so how the people at large react to them.

The concerns raised in Jairam Ramesh’s questions are being worked on by the BJP, which has a game plan of bring every leader into its fold who could be instrumental in re-building the Congress. Nitish Kumar’s departure is more of Lalu Yadav’s failure than the BJP’s success. And the question remains as to why BJP’s poaching the Congress legislators is not a worrying fact for the Congress? Ahmed Patel’s episode is the burning example.

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Another major spot of bother for the Congress is its debilitated organizational structure. There is hardly a functional unit of the party anywhere in the country, and the Karnataka assembly elections round the corner which might prove to be the Waterloo of the Congress. The Congress, however, fancies that it is very strong in Karnataka, which perhaps is not the case. The balance of power in Karnataka rests with Kumaraswamy, or in other words Deve Gowda ji, and the Congress has left no stone unturned in humiliating the father-son duo. If they continued to be insulted, they might – though reluctantly – join hands with the BJP.

Uttar Pradesh unit is at the edge. Just before the assembly election the rein of the party in the state was given to Raj Babbar. Although he tried his best and roamed around the state and wherever he went he pulled crowds, but failed to resurrect the dwindling party organization. At the same time the congress appears to be indifferent in seeking the reasons behind it. The organization of Bihar is no different. It contested 40 assembly seats in Bihar as a third partner in Mahagatbandhan, due largely to Nitish Kumar, and won 28 out of those 40 seats, but not a single win can be attributed to the Congress’s organizational strength. The Congress in Rajasthan is not a well-knit unit. However, in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh, Congress has at least one advantage that it is only opposition party to the BJP. The Aam Aadmi Party has announced not contest elections in Gujarat and Himachal. Perhaps they have taken the first wise decision.

But will the Congress salvage its honor in Himachal Pradesh? Will it give a fight to the BJP in the upcoming Gujarat? It does not look likely. The manner in which Shankar Singh Vaghela was humiliated and forced to part ways and the way in which the party is interacting with other the opposition parties or emerging politicians and the Dalit leaders, it is being doubted that if the Congress will put up a fight and snatch power with the BJP. At present, the BJP government in Gujarat is on shaky ground; its credibility amongst people is fast diminishing. But the question is will the Congress be able to reinvent itself?

Congress has a chance in Madhya Pradesh as well. Fifteen-year-old Shivraj Singh government has to deal with much anti-incumbency sentiments, largely because of farmer’s unrest and slackness in development work on the ground. The Congress’s own organization here is not in good shape. Its leaders who do politics in Delhi show no interest in Madhya Pradesh. They show up only during the elections. People say these leaders will help make the government of embattled BJP in Madhya Pradesh once again. Be it Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, everywhere the Congress organization is in very bad shape, but the central leaders are oblivious to these facts.

Why Rahul Gandhi have no time to fine-tune the state organizations? Or, has he made up his mind that he will give walk over to the BJP and a fight election only in 2022 and until then he will roam around the world, understand the world, but will not put in efforts to strengthen his organization. While delivering her speech in the Lok Sabha on 9 August, Sonia Gandhi appeared frail. Perhaps she is sick. She wants to hand over party’s command to Rahul Gandhi, but many people in the party are opposed to such move, although they are giving the statement in public in this regard. The Congress finds itself tangled into such an impasse that it lacks the vigor of ideas, the desire to move forward and the skill to revitalize the organization. A lot of Congress workers and many Congress leaders interact with me. They all lack confidence that is why they are trying to find out opportunity to themselves and wherever they find one they easily slip into their rank. This is the situation of a 100- year-old party.

There is still a glimmer of hope in people’s minds in Priyanka Gandhi’s takeover of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. They hope that will bring the party to level wherein it can put up a fight again, though with the skeptical view that with Priyanka Gandhi’s foray in active politics might lead the BJP government to tighten noose around her husband, Robert Vadra, and then Priyanka Gandhi will hesitate to move forward.

This is not the question of choice between Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The question is though they both listen to the suggestion made by workers, but they tend to hesitate in implementing those suggestions. Sonia Gandhi talks to the people, but do not react to their suggestions. Rahul Gandhi is beyond anybody’s comprehension. He cannot recall people’s names. Now, he faces the danger of losing Amethi. Smriti Irani is trying hard to rest the constituency from Rahul Gandhi. Now she also stepped forward to take one responsibility of Narendra Modi, viz attacking Sonia Gandhi. In this backdrop where does the Congress find itself? Here, I think Jairam Ramesh’s concern is quite reasonable. One thing is certain that people of Congress, whom we call real Congressmen, will not join the BJP, but they will not work hard for Congress either. Is there scope of redeeming Congress from this crossroad?

Congress lacks support amongst masses, because it is the Congress which brought the existing anti-poor, market-oriented economic policy. Narasimha Rao cannot be forgiven for what he did. He took the country to a point of no return. No government after him has gumption to mend this wrong. Now the country is tangled into the web of the market to the hilt, and no one can disentangle it even if one wishes to do so. One has to live and die with the realities of market based economy, wherein there is robbery, exploitation, oppression of the poor.

Be that as it may, a strong Congress organization is essential for democracy to survive. No other opposition party has a pan-India presence except the Congress. There must be a voice of opposition – however small that may be – for which existence of Congress is vital. In the BJP’s vision of democracy there is a no place for opposition. Democracy without opposition is like an orphan, for whom there is no way forward except to commit suicide. If Congressmen do not deliberate over the ways and means of reviving the Congress, then they will be on the top the list of the culprits of the demise of democracy.

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