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Cosmetic Measures Won’t Work

April 26, 2012 at 6:06 am

The decimation of the Congress is written on the wall and even a ‘Kamaraj Plan’ will not work for it, as the Congress of 2012 is not even a shadow of the Congress of 1963. Until and unless drastic measure- like decentralization of power of 10 Janpath and its cronies and having a Prime Minister who has both accountability and authority- are taken, the fortunes of the party are unlikely to revive.

For the last three days, the national media, both print and television, has been speculating on a “major reshuffle” in the Congress, aimed at reviving the sagging fortunes of the party. The speculations were sparked off after unconfirmed reports of some Congress ministers – Jairam Ramesh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Salman Khushid, V Narayanasamy and Vayalar Ravi – offering to quit their ministerial berths to strengthen the party.

As television channels, including India News, lapped up to the story, linking it to the 1963 ‘Kamaraj plan, I stood at the monitoring wall wondering if these ministers could ever pull off anything close to what great leaders like K Kamaraj, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Jagjiwan Ram and Morarji Desai achieved by quitting their ministerial berths in 1964 for revitalizing the Congress? The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that the move, even if true, was nothing but the work of a fertile brain of a sycophantic minister trying to prove his loyalty to the Gandhi family, which stands weakened like never before.

As things stand today, I can bet that nothing will change for the Congress even if all its ministers quit and take to the streets. The decimation of the Congress is written on the wall and even a ‘Kamaraj Plan’ will not work for it, as the Congress of 2012 is not even a shadow of the Congress of 1963.

The various scams, the paralysis in governance, the arrogance of its ministers and the intrigues within the party have led to a massive trust deficit between the masses and the Congress. And no cosmetic measures like reshuffles can change this.

So is it all over for the Congress? The answer is obviously no but until and unless some drastic measures- like decentralization of power of 10 Janpath and its cronies and having a Prime Minister who has both accountability and authority, unlike the present set up where the remote is elsewhere- are taken, the fortunes of the party are unlikely to revive. For a start the Congress should realize and accept that it’s no longer a party of yesteryears with a committed vote bank.

The recent assembly elections have proved beyond doubt the power and the potential of regional parties and their parochial agendas. To match this, the Congress will have to change its strategy of running its state units via remote from Delhi and will have to back and support state leadership in all its decisions, including distributing of tickets and reallocation of seats.

After the UP debacle, Sonia Gandhi had told the media that one of the reasons for the defeat was that there were “too many leaders” there and even Rahul Gandhi was candid in admitting that the party had no organizational setup. So who is to be blamed for this? Obviously not you or me but the Gandhis themselves, as they are the ones who are steering the Congress.

If there were too many leaders in UP, Punjab and elsewhere, the question is who propped them? It’s either the Gandhis or their ‘trusted’ lieutenants, who for their own survival have been promoting the crab culture in the party for years now. This has to change but will it?

As for governance, the UPA II has been a disaster. The 10 Janpath-1 Race Course Road power sharing arrangement, which lasted in UPA I, cracked under pressure leading to a total paralysis in decision-making. Even the US credit rating agency Moody’s has hit out at the Indian government hard for not doing enough on the reforms front. It said, “The single biggest factor weighing on the (economic) outlook is the Indian government.”

Under these circumstances it was rather funny seeing Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, recently asking bureaucrats to take “bold decisions” and promising them the backing of the government. Such words coming from a man who only last year candidly admitted to “allies pressures” and talked about his “political compulsion” for his failure in taking action on complaints on 2G scam, meant worthless, at least to me.

Its time the Congress takes the bold decision to end this unworkable arrangement of Sonia-Manmohan and has an effective Prime Minister who has the ability to lead the nation boldly in this hour of crises and change the sagging fortunes of the party. But the question again is will it?