There was a time when the Indian National Congress was as vast and varied as India itself. The Grand Old Party can rightfully claim its legacy in defining secular India and cementing the democratic institutions of the country. After ruling the country for about five decades, however, the party has drifted apart from the people and the will of the people.
It was perhaps caught unawares when leadership concepts underwent a sea change. The lack of direction has spread from the party’s national leadership to the state units, as seen in the rout the Congress faced in the recent assembly election in Kerala.
The Congress had always remained a people’s party. The party had a finger on the people’s pulse. The time has come for introspection on whether the party has lost the ability to connect with the people.
The Congress can no longer take comfort in the notion that the party always roused nationalistic feelings among the people and prompted them to vote en masse for it.
The party has been reduced to a mob with no organisational apparatus.
The Kerala election has proved the Congress suffered from a lack of cohesion, discipline or campaign focus – qualities that make up a cadre-based party.
It is weighed down by unending factional feuds. Even after the humiliating defeat, leaders were busy blaming each other, rather than opting for collective introspection.
Congress workers are no longer bound by party discipline. Party leaders relish washing dirty linen, instead of raising their grievances in party forums.
The Congress in Kerala has long faced demands to reform itself, right from the booth level at the grass roots. Everyone is convinced that the centralised jumbo committees serve no purpose, except perhaps the members of those committees who landed those positions thanks to their group loyalties or affinity to senior leaders. Most of them were busy undermining each other’s chances rather than working together for the success of party candidates. The party’s district committees are also in a shambles. Do its leaders think they can carry on with such a hollowed-out party organisation?
The political affairs committee of the Congress has vowed to ensure complete unity in the party and revamp every level of the organisation. This is not the first time such brave decisions were offered. Unfortunately, the words are never transformed into action. How long can the leadership look up to the high command to pacify its demotivated cadres.
The Congress was once a party of statesmen, administrators and brilliant leaders. The party won just nine seats in the Kerala assembly in 1967. It bounced back on the back of its students’ wing, the Kerala Students’ Union. The party could strive to gain back the confidence of youngsters to tide over its present crisis. However, it would need a programme to energise the younger generation. It also needs a younger generation of leaders.
A strong democracy requires a strong opposition. Every political party, whether they win the election or lose, prepares itself for the next election from the day of the counting of votes. Politicians who go to the people only during elections are now out of favour.
No party can hope to survive unless it has leaders who work among the people and stand with them to solve their everyday troubles. Is the Congress ready to read the writing on the wall?
The party is not going to benefit just because its leaders take responsibility for the election rout. Any sense of accountability should reflect in a timely transformation of the organisation from top to bottom.
The Congress has to be ready for this, prove its credibility and fulfil its duty to the people.