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The Congress looks to introspect ahead of polls

February 08, 2009 21:46 IST
Even as the Congress party's bete noire Narendara Modi launched a no-holds barred attack on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty calling it a conspiracy to keep them in power, two members of the first family of Indian politics Sonia and Rahul Gandhi kickstarted the Congress party's campaign for the 2009 elections from the Ramlila Grounds in NewDelhi.

With the political mercury rising in Nagpur and Delhi as both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress competed in heaping abuses at each other, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi continued to be the showstoppers as the over 10,000 grass root party workers clamoured for Rahul to occupy the centrestage of Congress politics and be projected as the prime minister while Sonia Gandhi beamed in pride while the clamour was on.

With the Congress continuing to be non-existent in key states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu whicg account for over 200 seats and the workers in their speeches asked for correctives to be put in place, the day long convention made it explicit that the Congress continues to depend upon the charisma and the name of the Gandhi dynasty to stay in power.

While the bulk of the speeches from the block and district presidents were lessons in sycophancy, there were some eye-openers, workers who had come prepared to speak the truth and as they articulated the sentiments of the silent majority present there, there was loud applause and genuine appreciation. One such example was Umaid Sheikh from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra who said that Sheila Dixit only won in Delhi because of her performance while the others were winning because of the name of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Sheikh asked Sonia Gandhi to warn her ministers not to ignore the workers because if they stopped their slogans during elections, there would be no Congress governments, no official cars and no fancy ministerial jobs. Sheikh said that ministers had become used to ignoring the workers except during elections. Sheikh said the workers asked for very little which also was not given to them. Sheikh told the Congress president that if this culture was not changed it wouldspell bad news for the party.

As the leaders on the dias sat quiet and listened, the workers on the ground whistled and clapped and later everyone wanted to shake the 'hero's' hand.

How little it takes to become a hero, but how much courage it takes to speak the truth in a party which has enveloped itself in sycophancy and undiluted praise, cutting itself in the process from the voice of its sipahis(soldiers).

A shade of this concern was reflected and understood by Rahul Gandhi who while speaking said he understood that DCC and BCC presidents along with other workers worked hard, but did not get recognition. He said they did not get a chance to contest the elections but instead someone from the top was superimposed and they were once again left out. He said political parties should respect the work of their workers.

Rahul Gandhi spoke about harnessing the unbrindled energy of the youth of the country, he spoke about ending the culture of sycophancy and "chaplusi", he spoke about merit as opposed to sifarish and money power, about knocking down closed doors.

These were the same concerns raised by the cCongress president. Of unity, the need to fight the polls cohesively, of bringing in a new work culture in the party, of getting organized. But as a number of grass root level workers pointed out; these speeches are made at every session, at every conclave. They sound sincere and they sound like this time the leadership means business. But at the end of the day its back to business as usual as senior leaders get tickets for their favourites, as the children of senior leaders outshine those who have been working on the ground, as power centres close to 10, Janpath rule the roost and as the lal batti culture dominates in the 130 year old party.

All this was reflected in some of the speeches made at the Ramlila Grounds conclave as the party prepared itself for the next few gruelling months getting its act together for the coming elections.

Sunday was just the first act of the long play which will be played out in street corners, hoardings, buntings, television screens, newspaper headlines and advertising space as the BJP and the Congress dust up their dictionaries and vocabularies to heap abuses at each other. After all its time for the biggest festival of all, democracy.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi