Bestselling author and former UN diplomat turned politician Shashi Tharoor has dared to do what no other Congressman has done in public in recent times. Overcoming the Ostrich Syndrome afflicting the 133-year-old Indian National Congress (INC), he opened his mouth and let out an open secret: the lack of leadership at the top is hurting party interests. While many sycophants in the Congress would pounce on him and troll him on social networks, genuine Congress well-wishers should applaud his candour and mull over his suggestions. Two months is a long time for the Congress to mourn the untimely death of her dreams, hopes and expectations.
The centenarian party should show enough inner strength, resilience and resolve to gird up her loin and start working for a rematch with better preparations, smarter action plan, stronger determination, greater vigour and higher intensity. But armies don’t win wars without a fighting general and parties don’t win elections without an inspiring leader. Everyone knows except the sycophantic cheerleaders that the Congress Party is, at the moment, bereft of leadership — it is rudderless — it’s a weather-beaten ship in the turbulent and choppy water of an ocean without its captain. Come to think of it, Mr Tharoor has given voice to the sentiments of millions of Congressmen who feel demoralised and dejected at the state of their party — it has thrown in the towel without a fight.
Mr Tharoor has rightly flagged what has happened in Goa and Karnataka and what might happen in other states where the Congress is still in power — infighting in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh doesn’t augur well for the Congress. These disheartening developments are directly attributable to the vacuum of leadership. And the longer the vacuum continues, the more damage it would cause to the party and make things more difficult for it to come back, if ever, at all. In response to a direct question by Nidhi Razdan on NDTV, if he was throwing his own hat in the ring for the leadership contest, Mr Tharoor realistically and sensibly admitted that there are leaders in the Congress who are far more experienced in organisational matters than him. Nonetheless, he could play a positive role as an MP by strongly articulating the ideals and values that the Congress Party has always espoused. Mr Tharoor also clarified that he wasn’t rooting for any individual — he was for setting in motion a process for free, fair and open elections for all posts hoping that it will throw up a new leadership.
Those in the Congress who seek a new leadership must have a closer look at what they are faced with. The BJP is sitting pretty in the Lok Sabha with 302 seats and inching towards a clear majority in the Rajya Sabha. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is their winning mascot, currently the most popular political leader in India. Home minister Amit Shah keeps the organisational SUV running on four cylinders all the time, practicing Chanakya’s centuries old mantra of tackling the enemies with Sam, Dam, Dand, Bhed. Above all, lakhs of disciplined and committed RSS pracharaks spread all over India do the spade work for the BJP. So, unless the Congress leaders wake up and show some spine, Mr Shah’s dream of a Congress-Mukt Bharat might be fulfilled in 2024!
An unprejudiced analysis of the BJP’s unprecedented electoral victories can help the Congress. The BJP leaders are proud of their party and passionate about making it the most prominent pan-India party. In order to strengthen the perception of a people-friendly party, they have come up with countless welfare schemes and conjure up an alluring and enchanting vision which they publicise aggressively. They have figured out — even if just 60 per cent of what they announce is implemented — the majority of Indians will stick with them! Their USP is Mr Modi, who has acquired the same charisma and popularity which was once enjoyed by Atal Behari Vajpayee. His oozing confidence, boundless energy, imaginative mind, exceptional oratorical and communication skills make him head and shoulders above his rivals. In the film Deewar, Shashi Kapoor silences Amitabh Bachchan by four words: Mere paas maa hai!
Today, the BJP says: Hamare paas Narendra Modi hai!
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s plea that the next Congress president should be young is sensible, but his claim that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be “the perfect choice” is more a reflection of his soft corner for the late Rajiv Gandhi and his family than a cold assessment of Ms Vadra’s pluses and minuses. Ms Vadra is a darling of the media that follows her everywhere. She conducts herself with dignity, connects with the common people, speaks in their lingo with ease and gives nuanced answers. But didn’t Smriti Irani wrest Ms Vadra’s bhaiyya’s seat in Amethi under her nose? Shouldn’t she own up part of the blame for Rahul Gandhi’s loss in Amethi? Proven guilty or not, her husband Robert Vadra hangs
around her neck like the proverbial albatross.
For transfusion of new blood, like in the BJP, the Congress should elevate the likes of A.K. Antony, Sushil Shinde, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh to a Margdarshak Mandal of their own. Jyotiraditya Scindia should be made the chief minister in Madhya Pradesh and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan. Younger leaders like Milind Deora and Priya Dutt in Maharashtra, Jitin Prasada in Uttar Pradesh should be given a freer hand to work for the party’s rejuvenation.
With a PhD at 22 years, 28 years with the UN, 15 years in Indian politics and 20 books to his credit, few can match Mr Tharoor’s intellectual and oratorical capabilities in English. It’s unwise on the Congress’ part not to make full use of his capabilities and make him a part of the top decision making body.
There is speculation in the media that the executive committee of the INC might announce the name of the new president/acting president next week. That should be welcomed by the party’s cadre and supporters. Some reports suggest that the Congress might undergo a complete restructuring by its corporatisation following the recommendations of Dr Sam Pitroda — but there is no official word about it nor are the contours of the new prototype visible to the public.
Mr Pitroda is an internationally recognised IT inventor with more than 110 patents to his credit. Even his detractors can’t deny his pivotal role in laying the foundation of the telecom revolution in India. As the chairman of the National Knowledge Commission and National Innovation Council under the UPA government, he tried to give a new push to India’s education and innovation policies. But Mr Pitroda is no politician! He has never contested an election. His connect with the people on the ground and his understanding of the factors which impact the fortunes of political parties in India is, at best, limited.
How is the corporatisation of the Congress Party going to help her regain people’s trust? Will it be perceived as a credible alternative to the BJP? It’s high time the INC comes down from its ivory tower and gets real. Indian voters aren’t impressed by high duty words like “Jupiter velocity” or “corporatisation”!...