While many in the Congress are skeptical of the fate of the Antony introspection report, some of the top leaders believe history will not repeat this time. However those who are skeptical have good reasons, for the organisational changes mooted by a larger panel also headed by Antony after the defeat in 1999 have largely been ignored. This despite the Congress Working Committee (CWC) having accepted that report.
In fact, Congress president Sonia Gandhi turned to Antony twice after that — in 2008 and in 2012 — to look into reasons for the party’s defeat in Assembly elections and no one, not even the top leaders, have heard anything since.
After the setback in 1999, the 11-member committee consisting of veterans like Mani Shankar Aiyar, Motilal Vora and P M Sayeed came up with a comprehensive report suggesting many organisational changes.
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Sources said one suggestion was that candidates for Lok Sabha be selected six months and those for Assembly be selected three months in advance so that they get adequate time to prepare. This was never implemented.
Another key suggestion was to hold elections at all levels, including in the CWC, which it felt was no longer a representative body. The CWC members continue to be nominated by the Congress chief and the last election held for the post of Congress president was in 2000 when Jitendra Prasad challenged Sonia only to suffer a humiliating defeat.
Party leaders said the nomination culture, which everyone accepts has weakened the party, continues inexplicably. According to the Congress constitution, 12 members of the CWC are to be elected by the AICC delegates.
The report had also suggested firming up alliances in states where the Congress was exceptionally weak. Interestingly, Antony himself headed the Congress sub-group on alliances in the run up to the last Lok Sabha polls, but the party could not find allies in Tamil Nadu — where it drew a blank.
However, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh disagrees. “The report of the Antony committee was adopted by the CWC. Some of the points were leaked to the media. There were many more suggestions on which action has been taken,” he told The Indian Express. “Now that the report has been given, a concrete action plan will be prepared and we shall take up the challenge of reviving the party,” he added.
The 1999 Antony report also talked about democratically electing the presidents and office-bearers of the youth Congress. While Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi began his democratisation exercise in 2009, the process is still not complete.