September 7, 2003
Deadwood at the top, bogus members at the bottom and lethargy down the line—that’s the scathing verdict on the state of the Congress party according to Sam Pitroda. He’s the man who helped Rajiv Gandhi craft his dream to take India into the 21st century and now has taken on a far tougher task: revamping the nation’s oldest party and anointing Sonia Gandhi bharat ki rani.
Barring fulsome praise for Sonia Gandhi’s leadership, the 25-page confidential report entitled Congress Party Rejuvenation Plan has hardly a good word to say about anyone or anything in the party.
The report was submitted way back in April following which the Congress set up committees to follow up on some of its recommendations. But most of these were stylistic—sprucing up offices, plugging in computers, getting on to the Internet. The key substantive issue was left untouched: the image of the Congressman.
On this, the report, a copy of which is with The Sunday Express, is unsparing—except of Sonia. Calling her a ‘‘clean, honest, hardworking and modern’’ president, the report slams the rot that has set into the party and the ‘‘vested interests and party brokers’’ at ‘‘the middle and some at the top.’’
It further states that while some in the party are ‘‘confused about new policies and programmes,’’ most are ‘‘out of touch with the masses.’’ There is ‘‘no comprehension of global technology and trends,’’ and ‘‘no spirit of public service and sacrifice.’’ Pitroda also highlights a ‘‘resistance to change and new ideas, innovations’’ besides a ‘‘resistance to new work culture’’ as the leaders are ‘‘comfortable with the old ways.’’
That’s not all. Leaders are more ‘‘focussed on personal interests as opposed to public interests’’ with ‘‘poor public image and performance.’’
If Congressmen cut a sorry figure, Congress offices are even worse: ‘‘poor organisation and infrastructure’’ with ‘‘lack of clarity, democracy, teamwork, purpose’’ and ‘‘considerable bogus membership.’’
Then comes the warning: ‘‘In a political party where perceptions are so very important, these details can be decisive in the way we eventually perform. If one walks into a major political party office and sees a state of disrepair, it is highly unlikely that that person would invest faith in it to fix the country’s problems.’’
The Congress has clearly taken his advice to spruce up the party offices and beef them up with computers and websites. A programme to modernise its ‘‘front offices’’ has begun, starting with the AICC headquarters at 24 Akbar Road.
When contacted at his Chicago residence, Pitroda told The Sunday Express: ‘‘What they do with my plan is up to the Congress…Every party should realize that a country can’t be run in the 21st century if you have the 1940 mindset and are hung up in the freedom struggle.’’
When asked why several committees had been set up on I-T and administrative matters and not one on leadership, he said: ‘‘Marginal efforts lead to marginal results. If the Congress wants to start with I-T etc., it doesn’t matter. I am sure the change will happen.’’
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