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Should Congress go back to Indira Gandhi style of ‘command-and-control’

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on February 13, 2020

Party is divided on ways to revive it — infuse new blood or put ‘known loyalists’ at the helm

After Congress’ debacle in the Delhi Assembly polls, the party is abuzz with discussions on ways to reviving it. While a section argues that holding organisational election as a ‘serious political process’ will rejuvenate the party, another argues that by careful “nomination” of AICC office bearers, it can tide over the crisis it is facing at the moment.

Senior leaders such as Veerappa Moily and Jairam Ramesh have asked the party leadership to ‘reinvent’ itself.

Former election authority of the Congress and the president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee Mullappally Ramachandran is a proponent of holding organisational elections. He told BusinessLine that it should start with a membership campaign by going door to door and meeting people and telling them about the legacy of Congress and its contribution in national movement and in building this country.

Party polls

“The election should be held democratically for all levels. The party is equipped for an election and it can be held without any delay. If there is dedicated effort, the election can be held within six months. I was able to conduct an election in the party after a long gap,” the veteran leader said. “It should be treated as a serious political exercise. We need to find a clear balance in using experienced people and youngsters,” he said.

The other side says nominating leaders at the top from dynasties and families that have stood with the Congress for decades is one way to revive it. This section points out that the “real Delhi Congress” was not expecting any seats and they were very clear from day one that the party is not going to get any seats. This section wants the Gandhi family to work like 24X7 politicians like the way the BJP leadership works.

“I don’t subscribe to that idea of elections. It creates an artificial rift in the party,” said a young leader from a traditional Congress family in Rajasthan. He wanted to remain anonymous. He said what the party is lacking now is a command-and-control situation. “Rahul Gandhi resigns and other people do not resign! Not that I am subscribing for Rahul Gandhi to be the president. But if somehow Sonia Gandhi was to resign then everybody would resign. The new leadership should be 100 per cent nominated so that there is some accountability. Today nobody can pull anybody in Congress,” he said.

“Look at this situation if generation X of the Congress such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitendra Prasada or Milind Deora are nominated to Rajya Sabha, it should not be a parking space for those who have defaulted in Lok Sabha, especially right now. This generation X is far too over-rated in the Congress. Who will look up to us if limited seats available with us are given to those who got defeated in Lok Sabha? The high command will be alienating Congress workers if they are taking such steps. The generation X has alienated a lot of people within the Congress in the last ten years,” he said.

Safe bet

He urged the Gandhis to pick AICC secretaries and general secretaries from among those with some base or political understanding. “Sonia Gandhi should remain as a president so that the ambiguity is finished. We do not have an option but to promote Priyanka Gandhi. Or make Rahul Gandhi president so that those who want to leave can leave and the ambiguity is also finished. We are dying a slow death everyday this way,” he said.

He also warned against outsourcing the work of defeating BJP to “third front”. “People will leave Congress. The ambiguity at Delhi has to stop,” he added.

He said the Congress can only be revived in one fashion and that is the Indira Gandhi way. “When Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister, she had to grab the party. By choice, she and people with her, including K Kamaraj, made a list of about 70 people who had dedicated families in the Congress. The criteria was that they should be able to gel with Indira Gandhi, her peer group. Second it was loyalty towards Congress and the third it was the loyalty to the Congress. If you see her first two-three Cabinets, they were all figures with stature. This time-tested model from the history can be tested again in party,” he said.

Published on February 13, 2020

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