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TRAGICOMEDY In The Congress

By SUNIL GATADE, VENKATESH KESARI
April 29, 2022 10:54 IST
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'An old party like the Congress cannot rely solely on the prescriptions of a 'Doctor' whose motives and intentions are still unknown and that he does not look attached towards any party or ideology,' point out Sunil Gatade and Venkatesh Kesari.

IMAGE: Prashant Kishor on the right; Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on the left. Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
 

All partings are painful, but the one between Prashant Kishor and the Congress even before the revival project of the Grand Old Party got underway had all the trappings of a tragicomedy.

It occurred when the 'mother of all battles' -- the 2024 Lok Sabha polls -- was approaching fast, preceded by elections in a dozen odd states.

Tragedy because a section of the political class including a section in the Congress believed that what the 137-year-old organisation needed was disruption to make it fighting fit to take on the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It believed that the 'transformational reforms' unveiled by Kishor would do the trick.

It has poured cold water on expectations that the beleaguered party could take on the BJP sooner or later and that the leadership finally has a revival plan when the going was getting tough after the pathetic show in the assembly polls in five states including Uttar Pradesh.

Comedy because it showed Congress and its leadership in poor light as the highly ambitious political strategist sought to be involved to change its fortunes.

It looked as if the 45-year-old Kishor was the knight in shining armour.

At the same time, it should be understood that an old party like the Congress cannot rely solely on the prescriptions of a 'Doctor' whose motives and intentions are still unknown and that he does not look attached towards any party or ideology.

On Kishor's part, he has never hidden the fact that he was advising or has advised a plethora of parties and leaders including Modi and Mamata Banerjee and plans to do so in future.

Detractors of the Congress were quick to mock the party taking the line 'If the product is bad, no matter how good a salesman may be or claim to be, you can't sell the product'. But that is bound to be.

Sonia Gandhi as also Rahul and Priyanka might have thought that the pace of reforms outlined by Kishore to salvage the party before the 2024 general elections could become counterproductive for a party, which is unaccustomed to quick change.

The party has also made it known that some of Kishor's suggestions are likely to be implemented soon.

The Gandhis have covered their flanks by virtually neutralising the G-23 leaders led by Ghulam Nabi Azad who had been vociferous for change in the party's functioning.

Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who was the heavyweight among the dissidents, has been placated by making his loyalist as the state PCC chief.

Right or wrong, the party's temperament has always been not to make haste. It allows things to cool down before making any move.

What happened to the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev suddenly brought perestroika and glasnost in a closed society and ailing economy nearly three decades back might have weighed on the mind of the Gandhis when faced with the issue of 'transformational reforms'.

'Were they unintentionaly helping Modi's campaign of a 'Congress mukt Bharat'?', might have been another thought.

Though the Congress has several times declared from the rooftops that 'change is the only constant', the problem is that the party has not been able to keep pace with the changing society in the last few decades.

The good thing about the parting of ways between Prashant Kishor and the Gandhis was that the two sides bid goodbye to each other as friends.

Since there was no blame game, the possibility of their working together in future still exists.

It is said one week is a long time in politics.

It has been a tale of woe for the Congress for the past eight years since a resurgent BJP under Narendra Modi not only removed the grand old party from power at the Centre but restricted it to a mere 44 in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Life has never been the same again for the party which brought India its Independence.

Barring stray cases of his grit, determination and brilliance like in the 2017 Gujarat assembly polls, Rahul Gandhi has failed as a leader and strategist in the last eight years.

While he comes forth as a passionate leader unafraid to take on the powers that be, consistency has never been his forte, which is a crucial thing in politics.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has not lived up to her potential and the party has not helped its cause by making her in charge of Uttar Pradesh where it got badly battered in the recent assembly polls.

In fact, what has been revealed more starkly from the Congress debacle of May 2014 is that the grand old party which has depended much on the 'first family' has not been able to gain from their charisma or expertise.

The tragedy is that despite having done much pro-poor and welfare work in the UPA years and by its previous governments, the Congress looks bankrupt in ideas on how to exploit it.

It has failed to come up with a compulsive narrative at a time when the politics of polarisation is being played to the hilt by the ruling side.

What lessons the Congress draws from the series of debacles and how fast it sets its house in order would decide the future of the grand old party.

Never in its history in post independent India has it been so cornered.

Despite that, it is the only political force in the Opposition which is present throughout India and taking up issues aggressively whether they concern national security or the falling economy.

Some 40 years ago, the BJP had only two members in the Lok Sabha, but now has a majority in the House since 2014.

Moral of the story is that the fortunes of political parties keep changing.

Persistence is the key so also understanding your opponent well.

Then one can improvise, adapt, overcome.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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SUNIL GATADE, VENKATESH KESARI
 
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