Sonia Gandhi is in a position to speak truth to her party. So why did she avoid hardtalk at the CPP?
There should be no factionalism,said the Congress president,calling it the single most important factor that will decide whether the party wins or loses future elections. Sonia Gandhi was speaking to the Congress Parliamentary Party,and in her first public reaction to her partys debacle in the last round of assembly polls,her diagnosis and prescription was more platitude than politics. The Congress must shed all manner of factional behaviour and fight as one disciplined team at all levels,she said. She suggested that reports of the Congress rout in Uttar Pradesh are exaggerated. While she admitted to disappointment at the partys inability to form governments in Punjab and Goa,she found comfort in the fact that the Congress increased its vote share quite considerably in UP and was seen as a serious player after 22 years in the state this,when the Congress stood fourth and added just six seats to its dismal 2007 tally after a campaign in which party general secretary Rahul Gandhi shed his reticence to become the face of the partys campaign. Finally,the Congress president hit out at critics. Attacking the government had become fashionable,she said.
Not one hard question,not one signal to ensure accountability,no indication of a reshuffle,no message to a beleaguered government. Its hard for political parties to face up to truth after poll defeats,particularly in public,and there is little to be expected by way of thoughtful or actionable introspection. But even by these standards,Sonia Gandhi,in her attempt to deny the mistakes,missed an opportunity to correct. Admittedly,it can also become difficult for parties to pause and look back when there is another electoral test round the corner. From the vantage point of the Congress today,the election schedule already looks packed,with polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat later this year and in Karnataka,Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2013. Yet,precisely because the Congress has many more elections to fight,it needs to honestly review its poor performance in the past.
The high-powered committee headed by Union defence minister A.K. Antony that was set up to take stock of the Congresss dismal showing in the latest round of five assembly elections,has submitted its report. But if the Congress presidents speech is any indication,that report is unlikely to seriously look within. Her loyalists may always tell her what she wants to hear but,surely,Sonia doesnt need to do that. As the party stumbles from one setback to another,she should have been the one asking the tough questions,instead of taking refuge in cliche.