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Rudderless Congress needs to empower younger regional leaders
Rohit Chandavarkar | Wednesday, 15 March 2017 AT 11:08 PM IST
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The Congress Party has begun some serious introspection about what really went wrong for it in Uttar Pradesh. Despite the positive image of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the tie-up that Congress and Samajwadi Party got into, there was no impact on the voters and now, it is time for the Congress to study what caused the debacle.

Cong VP Rahul Gandhi with Cong leader Raj Babbar during poll campaign in UP.
Speaking to a national news channel on Wednesday, Congress’ former MP from Mumbai Priya Dutt, insisted that all responsibility for the party’s current stint of failure cannot be pinned only on Rahul Gandhi. She said that it is a collective responsibility and she also mentioned that the party needs strong regional leaders if things have to be improved in the future. Dutt also mentioned that the current leaders who are giving feedback from states are not able to give the correct assessment of the ground situation.

This is an obvious realisation that seems to have dawned on the party, a bit late in the day. Even in a state like Goa, despite getting a clear majority in the assembly, the party could not decide who its leader in the house would be, and wasted valuable time instead of going to the Governor with a claim and resulted in handing over the opportunity to form the government on a platter to the BJP.

Clearly, a lot is wrong with the way Congress Party is currently functioning and a lot can be written about it in detail. But one of the root causes of the failure according to many is the rudderless nature of the leadership. Too many people being appointed to look after one responsibility and too much of confusion at every level has caused this problem. In Uttar Pradesh, Sheila Dikshit was made the Chief Ministerial candidate initially and then suddenly, at one point, a tie-up with Samajwadi Party was announced. Both these things were contrary and damaged the party. Congress’ Uttar Pradesh chief has offered to resign after the party’s disastrous performance in the assembly elections by winning just seven of UP’s 403 seats.

“I take responsibility as the party’s chief in UP. Our national leaders worked so hard,” said Babbar, rejecting the very idea of any blame for the rout being apportioned to Rahul Gandhi, who led his party’s UP campaign and fronted the strategy to partner with Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav.

The two parties together could win only 54 seats together. Chief rival BJP and its allies have won 325. “You cannot change the leadership. The leadership only creates teams of people like us and these teams are responsible for election wins and losses,” Babbar told media persons. He said he agreed with Rahul Gandhi who said on Tuesday that structural changes are needed to reinvent the party, which has faced a string of defeats losing state after state to the BJP after the 2014 national election, which reduced the Congress to its lowest tally ever in the Parliament.

Senior Congress leaders, even as they warn that the party needs more than the usual prescription of ‘introspection’ after every loss, have huddled again in defence of Rahul Gandhi.

The problem is that these senior leaders are not letting any of the young faces to take control of the party. Whether it is at national level or at state level, the feedback from party cadre is that seniors such as Digvijay Singh are not letting the younger generation take decisions. In Goa, too, the young leaders of the party are now on the verge of quitting from the organisation because of the interference in every regional matter by the seniors.

And Seniors keep defending Rahul Gandhi without asking him to get involved in the introspection sessions. “It has become a fashion to bash Rahul Gandhi. He is a unifying face and we can’t do without him. It’s not that Rahul needs us. We need Rahul Gandhi,” said senior Congress leader Renuka Choudhury, who earlier told media, “The problem is a lot deeper than what you are seeing.” “There is no question of Rahul Gandhi stepping down,” said Digvijay Singh, under fire for not acting as quickly as the BJP did to get win allies in Goa, which did not give a majority to any party. “The Nehru-Gandhi family is the greatest binding factor for the Congress and the leadership has to come to Rahul,” Singh, the Congress’ Goa in-charge said.

In election results for five states announced on Saturday, the Congress was trounced in UP and Uttarakhand, and though it was the single largest party in Goa and Manipur, it is the BJP which has formed governments in these states by quickly moving to secure the support of small regional parties.

Babbar is the first to offer his resignation after the disaster that this year’s assembly elections have turned out to be for the Congress. Senior leader BK Hariprasad had earlier offered to quit after the party performed badly in civic elections in Odisha, where he was in charge.

The overall situation indicates that the party has become totally rudderless and is being run with ad-hoc decisions which get changed every now and then. Unless the party gives scope to young regional leaders to take control of their turf and gets cracking with mass mobilisation, there would be no change seen on the ground.
 
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