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Antony entrusted with the same task for the fourth time in 15 years

Last updated on: June 21, 2014 04:18 IST

While party leaders have welcomed Sonia Gandhi’s decision to ask A K Antony to get feedback from the cadres, they are sceptical the exercise might end up like the committees set up in the past. contributor Anita Katyal reports 

More than a month after the Congress suffered its rout in the Lok Sabha polls, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has asked senior party leader A K Antony to meet defeated MPs and other state leaders for feedback on the electoral drubbing.  

This is the fourth time in the last 15 years that Antony has been entrusted with this responsibility. All his previous reports have been locked away and his recommendations have been duly ignored.

It is to be seen if the present exercise will yield any concrete results or meet the same fate of his earlier efforts.

Antony has already got down to work. He has started meeting former MPs from different states to get their inputs. Delhi’s 7 ex-MPs are slated to meet the veteran leader on Saturday.

The decision to undertake this exercise comes after Sonia Gandhi was urged by leaders and workers to undertake a brainstorming session to ascertain the reasons for the party’s worst-ever defeat and chalk out a strategy for its revival.

With Congress managing to win only 44 Lok Sabha seats, the morale of party cadres has hit an all-time low. Demoralised Congress who met Sonia Gandhi in recent weeks have repeatedly told her to involve workers at the local and state levels to come out with a concrete action plan for the future.

Congress leaders were disheartened when there was no move by the leadership to deal with the crisis facing the party. 

However, Congress cadres now feel reassured after Sonia Gandhi assumed a more proactive role in the party matters and has been holding regular meetings. She had abdicated most of her responsibilities to Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.

With Rahul Gandhi failing to make a mark in the elections, there is a growing demand that Sonia Gandhi should take charge once again.    

While party leaders have welcomed Sonia Gandhi’s decision to ask A K Antony to get feedback from the cadres, they are also sceptical that the exercise might end up like the committees that were set up in the past.  

It is already being said that Antony may be constrained from presenting an honest report if the feedback he receives blames Rahul Gandhi’s uninspiring leadership as the main reason for their defeat. Not only has the Congress recorded its worst ever performance in the Lok Sabha polls, it fared no better in assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Rajasthan which had been handled by the party vice-president.

The committee set up under the leadership of Antony in 1999, after the party won 114 seats, to pinpoint the reasons for its defeat had mentioned that Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin and her leadership were among the reasons for the poor result.

Although the contents of that report were leaked out, it was never shared with senior Congress leaders.

The committee had also made a host of other recommendations; chief among them was to encourage greater inner-party democracy, greater involvement of state and district units in the selection of candidates and a through revamp of party structures.

It had further suggested that candidates be named at least 3 months before elections and that preparations for elections begin early. The report said this practice of passing one-line resolutions entrusting the Congress president to appoint state leaders be dispensed with.

As subsequent developments have shown, all these suggestions were forgotten and never implemented.

And yet, Sonia Gandhi had again appointed Antony to head a similar panel in 2008 after the Congress lost in Karnataka and in 2012 when the party was defeated in the Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab assembly polls.

The reports made the usual proposals which were dutifully ignored by the party.

Anita Katyal in New Delhi