Disquiet is growing within the Congress over the leadership’s reluctance to shed its inertia in addressing organisational challenges, mainly the election of a new party president.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor said the “perception” that the party is “adrift” is hurting it as it is driving voters towards other political alternatives, and three-time MP Abhishek Singhvi said the time for “discussion and words” is over.
In Kolkata, senior leader Jairam Ramesh told PTI that a “collective submergence of individual egos and ambitions” was needed to revive the party, and suggested that “all senior Congress leaders, after a certain age, should be mentoring juniors rather than tormenting them”.
Tharoor said it is high time the party find a new president to “fill the vacuum” created in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s resignation after the Lok Sabha elections last year. He said the party should decide what it stands for and communicate it effectively and repeatedly. “We must articulate a vision for the future that embraces the aspirations of India’s majority — the young,” he said.
“The Congress is indispensable for India, to give the country an alternative unifying vision to the divisive policies of the BJP government. But to get there, we have to deal with a certain perception in the eyes of the public that we are adrift, which is hurting us since such an image will naturally drive voters towards other political alternatives, as the results from the Delhi elections reflect,” Tharoor said.
Singhvi listed out a series of steps for the party to take. “At the national level…Rahul Gandhi should take charge. But if he is insistent not to do so, it is but natural that we have to have a consensual leader or, at worst, a group of three consensual leaders who can provide immediate leadership in these difficult times. The time for discussion and words are over. And the time for action started yesterday.”
Speaking in his personal capacity, Singhvi, one of the party’s most senior national spokespersons, said that “eventually and ultimately, this national level arrangement has to be sanctified by proper elections to the top posts in the party which may nevertheless take a few months”.
Tavleen Singh writes: Congress must start looking for a new leader who will stand up for values that the party professes
Tharoor said the delay “to a certain extent” in finding a new president is “understandable, given the special place that Rahul enjoys in the hearts of the Congress workers”.
“But at the end of the day, a revived Congress is indispensable for India. We are the only national party that can challenge the ideology and the policies of the BJP government. But in order for us to effectively fulfil this responsibility, we do need to find ourselves a new president to fill the vacuum created in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s resignation and, we need to do so without any further delay. I wish he hadn’t resigned, and was one of those who tried to talk him out of it. But if he persists in his determination, we need to find an active and full-time leadership so the Party can move forward as the nation expects,” he said.
Singhvi said the party should conduct a “rigorous, in depth, merciless and hundred percent merit-oriented search exercise to select two leaders per state” who “must have the non-negotiable quality of being dynamic, articulate including in Hindi and the regional language, and with tested and unflinching loyalty” and back them to the hilt.
“We should announce these two leaders per state and institutionally back them unflinchingly for the next four and a half years in the run up to the elections. Having honestly done our due diligence, we should be unwavering in our support to these two leaders for the full term irrespective of internal sabotage, backbiting or motivated complaints. This will yield a rich crop and a prosperous hinterland of 60 odd leaders who can revitalise and reinvent the Congress in each state. But this exercise has to be absolutely merit- oriented on stated three or five criteria and not be swayed by any other consideration,” he said.
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Singhvi said the Congress should also categorise states into “ekla chalo” (go alone) states where the “Congress must relentlessly pursue the lonely furrow, undeflected by inner pressures or short-term exigencies…that must happen in states where ‘ekla chalo’ alone can build up the party from bottom up.”
“In a state where our revitalisation might take even longer, we may have to take the tough call, at least for the medium term, to identify a regional party which can become the pole around which other parties, including the Congress, must rally, to ensure that division of votes does not benefit the BJP. In some of those states, the leader may be the Congress in which case it has to consensually manage the other parties to rally around itself so as to prevent benefit to the BJP,” he said.
Also read | Delhi polls: Congress wipeout— Zero seats, under 5% vote share, clueless in ideas battle
In Kolkata, asked about the future course of action of the country’s grand old party, Ramesh told PTI: “All of us have individual ambitions. But right now there should be only one ambition — the party’s revival, retention of support base and return to power.”
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