Thursday, July 11, 2019

No more a dancing floor

Congress must rise from ruins and usher a new era to compete against a flourishing BJP that has gripped the nation with its mandate 

Pankaj Sharma7
 July 2019 

With Rahul Gandhi relinquishing the party president's position, it has become more difficult for Congress to find a leader as decisive and agile as that of Bhartiya Janata Party. Challenges before Congress are multidimensional. They are from nimble-footed behemoth BJP which is powered by ideologically committed workers as well as from within with an entire brigade of worthless creatures at the helm of affairs. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have redefined the decades' old rules of the game in Indian politics. To play the game while following the 'MoSha' statute is the stiffest test that Congress has to pass. It cannot be done unless the leadership becomes more accessible to party workers. Congress can have a new president but for millions of party workers, Rahul only will remain their leader. Therefore, the success of any revival plan will depend on his communion with them. Every step Rahul takes will go a long way and he will have to focus on mega issues at the micro-level. Also Read - A very ambitious aim It is time Rahul deliberates upon the major socio-political churns in our national polity. The future trajectory of India will depend on how the Congress party addresses concerns of Hindu society in a most diverse country in the world. There was a time when Congress was the only aggregator of country's diversified population. Various sections of the society felt comfortable under its single umbrella. After Independence, Congress evolved a balanced system of power-sharing between different castes and communities. That social structure of power went well for decades. Representation of Dalits and Tribals at all levels of the political system was ensured. A strong commitment to secularism and ensuring the security of minorities kept those sections with Congress. Also Read - A long way to go A clear vision of party leaderships enabled Congress to beat several challenges such as Dravidian politics in south, communist parties in Bengal, Kerala and few other states, Dalit assertion under the aegis of Ambedakarwadi Bahujan politics and ideological construct of Samajwad by OBCs. None of them could emerge as the main aggregator at the pan-Indian stage. The political scene for Congress took turn mainly after 1991. But the carrot and stick-based MoSha-method changed everything and BJP heralded the new age of social engineering in electoral politics. Congress was replaced by BJP as the main aggregator in the nation's politics. Last seven years were full of deception and distortion with a focus on forming an alliance of various Hindu sections. RSS and BJP worked overtime to conceive a 'United Spectrum of Hindu Votes' (USHV). They went to every district level and ensured that a micro caste alliance among Hindus takes strong shape. Congress, on the other hand, was busy administering the philosophical narrative of anti-poverty policies, inclusiveness, and democratic values. Oblivious of real danger, people chose to buy MoSha-nationalism. They ignored the threat a highly polarised country might face in times to come. To make the common people aware of this crisis will be the fundamental responsibility of Congress now. Congress also has to fight against the influence of RSS-minded individuals who have captured policy-making institutions, media, and academia in the last five years. They are effectively leveraging to intensify the conflict between the old urban class and the new. Neo-urban class is a product of economic reforms and has practically no respect for Nehruvian model of a welfare society. This class is so much under pressure of market forces that it understands no basics of religion, secularism, and nationalism. To them, real concerns and local aspirations have no meaning. They crave to be the global citizens and perceive Narendra Modi as someone who will ensure the green card of this citizenship for them. Congress will have to find ways to bridge this gap of fundamental differences and make the youth attentive to real issues. Ground from under the feet of Congress has shifted briskly because Rahul Gandhi had weak lieutenants around him after practically taking over the reins of his party in 2013. He had a multifaceted plan though the team he built was not only naïve but was full of imperious attitude, eager to enjoy the power and impatient to conclude their greed. Most of his team had been on a picnic trip for all these years. A pimple upon an ulcer was the mood of the sidelined old guards who obviously relished Rahul struggling because of his trust in his teammates. Rahul could not achieve his goal because he embraced some wrong people and dethroned some right ones. Congress has always had a chequered history. Maintaining cordial relations among leaders has always been a problem. Jawahar Lal Nehru's relationship with Acharya Kraplani and Purushottam Das Tandon, Indira Gandhi's relationship with K Kamraj, S Nijalingappa and Morarji Desai and Rajiv Gandhi's relationship with Kamalapati Tripathi and Vishwanath Pratap Singh are no hidden stories. But efforts to manage conflicts were no lesser. Congress lacked this spirit in the past few years. If Sonia Gandhi did not play her party, Congress would have gone to a mess long back. Rahul Gandhi's resignation from the presidency of his party has the potential to cut both ways at the moment. His flowing attainment as a leader shall revive the Congress at the core. His absence at the rudder can convert Congress into a feeble organisation—totally incompetent to take on the political ultimatums posed by MoSha. Rahul has said in his resignation letter, "I am available to the party whenever they require my services, input or advice." It shows some apathy because he does not find today's Congress structure strong enough to attract his assistance. Congress needs to radically transform itself to take Rahul along. The solace for party workers is that Rahul has assured, "In no way, shape or form am I stepping back from this fight. I am a loyal soldier of the Congress party and a devoted son of India and will continue to serve and protect her till my last breath." That means on his personal level, Rahul will continue fighting for the same values and principles that the Congress has been fighting for. This ray of hope will keep Congress base intact in coming years. Rest will depend on the new presidency of the Congress party, which has to infuse life with its actions. Waiting for it to happen will be idiocy. To make its own future, to make its own hope and to create its own trust, Congress has to walk hundreds of extra miles. It needs efficient surgeons for internal surgeries. More than that, it also needs skilled social engineers to give MoSha mechanism a fitting reply. It is not easy. Without Rahul Gandhi it is impossible. Congress is not here only for a living. If it does not enrich the foundations of democracy, it will have no future. To have a bright future it has to surround itself with genuine folk. It can no more be a dancing floor for the creamy layer. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)

राहुल गांधी का ‘मृत्योर्मा अमृतगमय’ क्षण

Pankaj Sharma 
06 July, 2019

राहुल गांधी आज एक निर्लिप्त विजेता हैं। कांग्रेस के अध्यक्ष पद से उनका इस्तीफ़ा उनका आत्मकथ्य है। ऐसा आत्मकथ्य, जिसने, खुल कर कोई माने-न-माने, सबको भीतर तक झिंझोड़ दिया है। कांग्रेसियों की उस ढीठ क़तार को छोड़ दीजिए, जिसकी आंखों से लाज-शर्म कभी की काफ़ूर हो चुकी है, मगर ऐसे भी बहुत हैं, जिनका ज़मीर अभी बाक़ी है, और वे सब राहुल के इस्तीफ़े के बाद निगाहें नीची कर अपने पैर के अंगूठे से ज़मीन कुरेद रहे हैं। 
कांग्रेस के भीतर का मौजूदा बेहाल-सा मंज़र और पीले पड़ गए चेहरे किसी से कुछ नहीं बोलेंगे, लेकिन उनके बिना बोले भी पूरा देश समझ गया है कि राहुल की स्व-समाधि ने कैसे एक पूरे शहर को वीरान कर डाला है। कल तक हर बात के लिए उन्हें कोसने वालों को अचानक अहसास हो रहा है कि राहुल की आवाज़ से ही तो कांग्रेस का दीया जल रहा था। अध्यक्ष पद से उनकी विदाई के बाद से अब यह लौ इस क़दर फड़फड़ा रही है कि हाथों की कोई ओट उसकी हिफ़ाजत का ज़िम्मा लेने में सक्षम नहीं दिखाई दे रही।
राहुल के इस्तीफ़े ने उन्हें असहमति में उठे उन युगांतकारी हाथों में से एक का दर्ज़ा दे दिया है, जिनकी बदौलत भारत, भारत है। राहुल अब पूरी तरह विपक्ष में हैं। सड़ांध मारती उस व्यवस्था के विपक्ष में, जिसे बदले बिना भारत को भारत बनाए रखने में रत्ती भर भी योगदान करना नामुक़िन है। फिर भले ही यह व्यवस्था नरेंद्र भाई मोदी के सिंहासन के पायों से लिपटी हो या ख़ुद राहुल के अपने संगठन की जड़ों को भुरभुरा बना चुकी हो। व्यवस्था-विरोध के इस संघर्ष में राहुल ने सर्वस्व झौंक दिया है। 
मैं जानता हूं कि पिछले कई बरस से कैसे-कैसे बिच्छूं उनकी हथेली के सहारे अपने प्राण बचा रहे थे। उनकी भलमनसाहत के चलते पार्टी ने ऐसे-ऐसे महासचिवों, सचिवों और देश-प्रदेश के पदाधिकारियों को भुगता, जिन्होंने जिस चीज को हाथ लगाया उसे नष्ट कर दिया। लेकिन राहुल इस भाव से भरे थे कि जब बिच्छू, बिच्छू हो कर अपना स्वभाव नहीं बदल रहे तो वे राहुल हो कर अपना स्वभाव कैसे छोड़ दें? उन्हें लगता था कि कांग्रेस की भावी कमान के लिए जो पौध वे तैयार कर रहे हैं, वह एक दिन ज़रूर लहलहाएगी। नव-आगंतुकों और दशकों से जमे चेहरों में खींसे निपोरते घूम-घूम कर अपना मतलब साधने वालों की बड़ी जमात थी। सो, पानी आख़िरकार राहुल के सिर से गुज़रना ही था, गुज़र गया। 
जब ज़लालत बेहद पास से गुज़रती है तो उसकी खरोंच का सबसे बड़ा निशान आत्मा पर पड़ता है। इसलिए राहुल का इस्तीफ़ा, इस्तीफ़ा तो जो हैं, सो, है, वह एक ऐसी दर्द भरी फ़रियाद है, जिसे वे बिना अपना पद त्यागे हमें सुना ही नहीं सकते थे। कल्पना तो कीजिए कि राहुल ने यह बात बेबसी का कितना भारी पत्थर रख कर हमारे सामने कु़बूल की होगी कि वे अपने पद से क्यों हट रहे हैं? ज़रा इस्तीफ़े में लिखी इबारत के गर्भ से गूंजती बातों को ग़ौर से सुनिए।
एक, 2019 के चुनाव में हार के लिए कांग्रेस-अध्यक्ष के नाते मैं ज़िम्मेदार हूं।
दो, हमारी पार्टी के भविष्य और उसकी अनवरत बढ़त के लिए जवाबदेही की समीक्षा बहुत ज़रूरी है। कांग्रेस-अध्यक्ष पद से मेरे इस्तीफ़े की यही बुनियादी वज़ह है।
तीन, पार्टी का पुनर्निमाण करने के लिए बेहद सख़्त फ़ैसले लेने होंगे।
चार, 2019 की पराजय के लिए बहुत-से लोगों की जवाबदेही करना ज़रूरी है। ऐसे में यह न्याय-विरुद्ध होता कि बाक़ी सबको तो उत्तरदायी ठहरा दिया जाए और कांग्रेस-अध्यक्ष के नाते मैं अपनी जवाबदेही की अनदेखी कर दूं।
पांच, मैं राजनीतिक सत्ता पाने की मामूली लड़ाई कभी लड़ ही नहीं रहा था। मेरे मन में भारतीय जनता पार्टी के ख़िलाफ़ कोई नफ़रत है ही नहीं। लेकिन मेरे बदन की हर जीवित कोशिका भारत की उनकी अवधारणा के विरोध में सहज-बोध से फड़कने लगती है। यह प्रतिरोध इसलिए एकदम स्वाभाविक है कि मेरा समूचा अस्तित्व भारत की उस कल्पना से भीगा हुआ है, जो भाजपाई इरादों के सीधे उलट है। यह संघर्ष नया नहीं, हज़ारों बरस पुराना है। जहां वे भेदभाव देखते हैं, वहां मुझे समरूपता दिखाई देती है। जहां वे द्वेष देखते हैं, मुझे प्रीति दिखाई देती है। वे जिससे भय खाते हैं, मैं उसे गले लगाता हूं। हमें भारत की इसी मूल-अवधारणा की अब जी-जान से रक्षा करनी है।
छह, इस चुनाव में मैं ने प्रधानमंत्री, राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ और उनके द्वारा कब्ज़ा लिए गए सभी संस्थानों के ख़िलाफ़, निजी तौर पर, अपना सर्वस्व दांव पर लगाया और ऐसे भी मौक़े आए, जब मैं नितांत अकेला खड़ा था। मैं इस युद्ध से कभी पीछे नहीं हटूंगा। मैं कांग्रेस का आज्ञाकारी सिपाही और अपने देश का निष्ठावान बेटा हूं। मैं अपनी अंतिम सांस तक संघर्ष करता रहूंगा।
सात, लोकतंत्र की सभी संस्थाओं की तटस्थता और पारदर्शिता की पुनर्स्थापना का, वंचितों को उनके हक़ वापस दिलाने का और अर्थव्यवस्था को फिर पटरी पर लाने का काम सिर्फ़ कांग्रेस ही कर सकती है, लेकिन यह महत्वपूर्ण लक्ष्य प्राप्त करने के लिए उसे अपने भीतर आमूलचूल सुधार लाने होंगे। हम कांग्रेस के असंख्य प्रतिबद्ध कार्यकर्ताओं के बूते यह कर के दिखाएंगे।
राहुल की भावनाओं से साफ़ है कि वे पूरी तरह आश्वस्त हैं कि उनके इसी गर्दें-सफ़र से दूर की मंज़िल निकलेगी। अब उन्हें अपने पावों के छाले मज़ा देने लगे हैं। इसलिए मैं जानता हूं कि राहुल अब अपने क़दम रोकने वाले नहीं हैं। नए मुखिया की अगुआई में कांग्रेस उनके साथ चले-न-चले, वे अब चल पड़े हैं। देर-सबेर वह वक़्त आएगा-ही-आएगा, जब दूर से राहुल को देखने वाले भी एक ऐसी कांग्रेस बनाने में उनका हाथ बटाने लगेंगे, जिसके बिना जम्हूरियत का जहाज आज की इकलखुरा सियासत का सियाह समंदर पार नहीं कर सकता।
कांग्रेस की राजनीति अंधेरे से ढंका गन्ने का खेत है। उसमें कौन कहां क्या कर रहा है, किसी को पता नहीं चलता। लेकिन राहुल को आहिस्ता-आहिस्ता इसका पता चल गया। वे चूंकि इस व्यवस्था को पालने-पोसने को तैयार नहीं हैं, इसलिए उन्हें जाना पड़ा। वे व्यवस्था को अपने हाल पर छोड़ने के लिए नहीं, बदलने के लिए हटे हैं। जिस दिन यह व्यवस्था बदलेगी, वे लौटेंगे। अगर नहीं बदलेगी तो इस सड़न में दम तोड़ती कांग्रेस की फिर पड़ी भी किसे है? 
राहुल को ‘मिट्ठू, चिटरगोटी’ बना कर रखने वालों के लिए राहुल थोड़े ही बने हैं। जो ऐसे आख्यान गढ़ने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं, जिनमें व्यथा-कथाओं की अनदेखी तो कर ही दी जाए, बल्कि राहुल की साहस-गाथाएं भी दफ़न कर दी जाएं, अगर वे अब भी नहीं समझे हैं कि राहुल में अपनी ही चौखट से टकराने का कैसा जीवट है तो ऐसों के बौड़मपन पर तरस खाने के अलावा हम क्या करें? जिन्हें लग रहा है कि राहुल ने अपने पांव के निशान मिटा दिए हैं, इसलिए समय की रेत से उनके पैरों के निशान ग़ायब हो जाएंगे, आइए, हम उनकी अज्ञानता की बलैयां लें। मेरी मानिए तो राहुल ‘मृत्योर्मा अमृतगमय’ हो गए हैं। वे अमृत्यु की तरफ़ बढ़ चले हैं। राहुल कांग्रेसी-अमरपक्षी की राख समेट कर उसे सूर्य के शहर हेलियोपोलिस के हवाले कर रहे हैं। इसी राख से कांग्रेसी-फीनिक्स का पुनर्जन्म होगा। (लेखक न्यूज़-व्यूज़ इंडिया के संपादक और कांग्रेस पार्टी के राष्ट्रीय पदाधिकारी हैं।)

Journey to blankness

 With Rahul out of the fray, who will retrieve Congress from its internal ruins? 

Pankaj Sharma
July 2019 

The countdown has begun for choosing a consensual face in place of Rahul Gandhi as the 88th president of the 134-year old Indian National Congress after persistent efforts of one entire month to make Rahul agree for withdrawal of his resignation fizzled out. Congress will get its new chief anytime now. With this, Congress enters in an era filled with ambiguity, disorientation, and blankness. Those who want to see a replacement for Rahul argue that if PV Narasimha Rao could run Congress from 1991 to '96 and Sitaram Kesari from 1996 to '98, why anyone should doubt the capabilities of any other non-Nehru-Gandhi in heading the party now? In my opinion, they obliterate a few facts. Rao became the Congress president after the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi when Sonia Gandhi was not at all willing and even accomplished enough to take over the reins of the party and Rahul and Priyanka were only 21 and 19 years old. Congress leaders of the time had no other option than to accept a transitory arrangement. Also Read - A very ambitious aim It is another story that how temporal Rao-era proved? He could run the presidency for five years because he became the prime minister also. The day he was no prime minister, it became clear that his days as president are numbered and Kesari threw him out one fine morning. Kesari also had to face a similar fate after some time as foot-soldiers of the Congress party never accepted his election as a logical outcome. After a careful study of party affairs for seven long years ultimately Sonia had to take over and the Congress party flourished and moved with a fast pace. Also Read - A long way to go Rao did not replace any existing Nehru-Gandhi, he initially came as their choice. Kesari also did not replace Nehru-Gandhi or a person of their choice. Rao had become persona non grata long before Kesari occupied party president's chair. Kesari, like Rao, also became party president as a choice of Congress' first family initially. But the old man was in a big hurry to take up the prime ministerial assignment and his indulging in crude manoeuvres to achieve this goal cost him his party's captainship. Today's situation is different. Rahul Gandhi is in no mood to depart from his stand that he will not hold the presidency anymore; the fact remains that he is leaving with a bruise on his soul, with anguish in his heart, and distress in his mind. He is being hard on himself because he does not want others to pretend as nothing has happened and make them accountable too. But he underestimated the expertise of a set of Congress leaders in rubbing salt on his wounds. It was a well-calibrated result that there were no rallies in support of Rahul across the country, no resignations of any major leaders followed for full one month and there were no sincere efforts to resolve the logjam. Do you need a signal to respond at the time of an emergency? What could have been a bigger urgency to attend to than Rahul's quitting so abruptly? Congress workers have witnessed all this sitting helplessly at every nook and corner across the country. Do you think, any new president will get a whole-hearted welcome by the grassroots workers? Party workers will always have a feeling that the person riding on their back is there because Rahul was practically made to give up in spite of his astounding job during the 2019 election campaign. Accountability, after all, has to be collective. If Rahul is accountable, around 5000 other small and big leaders are equally responsible for the current debacle. The bigger question than the election outcome is the organisational strength Congress has on the ground. Who are to blame for that? What were the assignees for this responsibility doing all these years? Why are they still there if Rahul has gone? It is no use hiding the fact that Congress is in limbo for more than a month and its workers are deeply disappointed with the organisation's proceedings. To revitalise the party, corrective measures must have begun from day one after the election results but rather than focusing on honest, dispassionate and objective evaluation, Congress is trapped in an unnecessary situation. Any new president of the Congress party will have to innovate strategies to counter BJP's expertise in magnifying, distorting, misrepresenting and exploiting every political issue in its favour. Congress has no such mechanism and certainly not a piece of machinery to propagate and execute its programs and plans. There is no inadequacy of competent leaders in Congress who are administratively well qualified to lead the party. Names such as Dr Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Motilal Vora, Dr Karan Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel, Sheila Dikshit, Ambika Soni, Gulam Nabi Azad, Tarun Gogoi, Verappa Moily, Anand Sharma, Oommen Chandy, P Chidambaram, Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Capt. Amrinder Singh, and Meira Kumar are of no less eminence. They might have their positive as well as negative serviceability depending on from which angle you see them. But any of them can run the Congress with the help of a set of working presidents or vice presidents. There are views that only administrative abilities are not sufficient for the captaincy of Congress like a pan-Indian party. The party cadre and common people across the nation must perceive the new face as someone who can lead them. To attain this position s/he will require indomitable support from Rahul-Sonia-Priyanka and party's infantry troopers. Where is that persona? I have no idea if Congress supporters in our country are acclimatised for out of the way experimentations, but if they have an appetite to digest it, the top job can be assigned to KC Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor, Sam Pitroda, Rajeev Satav, Milind Deora, Gaurav Gogoi , and Randeep Surjewala. If you want to go many steps further you can even think of Raj Babbar, Navjot Singh Siddhu and Sanjay Nirupam also for holding the presidency. In this case, why not to consider Aslam Sherkhan who has 'very kindly offered' his services to hold the position for two years. I would pray the God almighty to not bless the decision makers to take such 'revolutionary' steps! With elections in Haryana and Maharashtra in October-November this year, in Delhi and Jharkhand early next year and in Bihar in October 2020; Congress cannot afford to bank on an untested shoulder. Congress is no Bhartiya Janta Party where a Bangaru Laxman or a Jena Krishnamurti or a JP Nadda can be put on a pedestal and its party cadre, with very effective assistance from strong RSS network, can take care of the rest of the things. In addition to this, for past 6-7 years "MoSha factor"—where Modi and Shah spare no stone unturned—has beaten all the normal equations of any political challenge. If Rahul's determination in neutralising Narendra Modi is not sufficient to delight high-handed brokers within Congress, who else will be able to hold waters? (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. Views expressed are strictly personal)

राहुल के सम-भाव का सबसे बड़ा इम्तहान

Pankaj Sharma
  • 29 June, 2019  

एक महीने से कांग्रेसी क्षितिज पर तरह-तरह के रंगों के छींटे देख कर मेरी आंखें चकित भी हैं और व्यथित भी। राहुल गांधी कांग्रेस-अध्यक्ष बने रहने को तैयार नहीं हैं। वे तैयार हो जाएं, इसके लिए कांग्रेस ज़्यादा कुछ करती दिखाई भी नहीं दे रही है। पिछले महीने के अंतिम शनिवार को कांग्रेस की कार्यसमिति में राहुल ने इस्तीफ़ा दिया तो उसे एकमत से नामंज़ूर करने की औपचारिकता भले ही उसी वक़्त पूरी हो गई, मगर इसके बाद राहुल की ना से कहीं कोई हंगामा नहीं बरपा। राहुल का दुःख सब का दुःख क्यों नहीं बन रहा? यह समूची कांग्रेस का साझा दुःख क्यों नहीं है? ठीक है कि राहुल ने एक बार नहीं, कई-कई बार साफ़ कर दिया कि अब वे नहीं मानेंगे तो नहीं मानेंगे, मगर मुझे ताज्जुब इस बात का है कि राहुल के फ़ैसले से कांग्रेस की पैदल-सेना में पैदा हुई गहरी बेचैनी की चिनगारियां तेज़ी से भड़कीं क्यों नहीं? हम सब ने देखा है कि ऐसे मौक़ों पर तो कांग्रेसी, बिना किसी के कहे, अपने-आप घरों से निकल पड़ते हैं। और, ऐसे भी मौक़े आए हैं कि जब वे ख़ुद घरों से नहीं निकले हों तो क्षत्रपों के संकेत का एक बटन दबते ही पूरे मुल्क़ में भावनाओं के दावानल फूटने लगते हैं।
इस बार ऐसा क्यों नहीं हुआ? क्या राहुल की सियासी स्व-समाधि इतनी मामूली घटना है कि कांग्रेसी समंदर में हलका-सा भी ज्वार न आए? क्या हम आंख मूंद कर यह यक़ीन कर लें कि देश भर में कांग्रेस की ज़मीन पर कहीं ऐसा कोई मौजूद नहीं है, जिसका चित्त राहुल की विदा-घोषणा से व्याकुल नहीं है? अगर ऐसा नहीं है तो फिर इन आंसुओं का बहाव किन घूरती आंखों के इशारों ने सुखा डाला? इस विलाप की आवाजे़ं किन कोठरियों में क़ैद हो गईं? लोकसभा के चुनाव-अभियान में राहुल के जुझारूपन पर फ़िदा टोलियां किन की गोद में समा गईं? 
जो कांग्रेस को जानते हैं, वे खूब जानते हैं कि यह सन्नाटा ऐसे ही नहीं पसरा हुआ है। इस एक महीने में बहुतों ने बहुतों के मन में लड्डू फूटते देखे हैं। चलाना-वलाना तो बाद की बात है, 134 बरस पुरानी पार्टी की उस कुर्सी पर, जिस पर एक-से-एक कद्दावर बैठे,  नाम के लिए ही सही, बैठने को ऐसे-ऐसों की आत्मा फुदक रही है, जिन्हें उनके गली-मुहल्ले में भी कोई आते-जाते सलाम नहीं करता है। मेरा तो बीता ही है, आपका भी यह पूरा महीना ऐसे तमाम लार-टपकाउओं के दीदार करते बीता होगा। इन लोगों की चिंता कांग्रेस को इस अंधेरे कोने से खंीच कर बाहर लाने की नहीं, पगड़ी-रस्म में अपना-अपना सिर घुसाने की है। वे सब ‘मन-मन भावे, मूड हिलावे’ की आसन-मुद्रा साधे बैठे हैं।
यह कांग्रेसियों की इस नस्ल की वीभत्स मतलबपरस्ती का दौर है। इन अलीबाबाओं को लग रहा है कि कांग्रेस के शुभंकर राहुल गांधी की विदाई के आसार ने उनके लिए सिमसिम-गुफ़ा का दरवाज़ा खोल दिया है। कभी-कभी ऐसा भी होता है कि आपके बनाए राक्षस आपको ही खाने दौड़ने लगते हैं। कांग्रेस ऐसे ही समय से गुज़र रही है। मैं बिना ग्रह-नक्षत्रों की गणना के भी यह भविष्यवाणी कर सकता हूं कि अगर राहुल ने कांग्रेस का नेतृत्व करते रहने के अपने बुनियादी कर्तव्य-बोध पर ख़ुद की आहत भावनाओं को हावी रहने दिया तो 2020 के पहले दिन का सूरज उगते-उगते कांग्रेस की सूरत पहचान में आने लायक़ भी नहीं रहेगी। इसलिए यह आनाकानी का नहीं, पूरी कांग्रेस का तिया-पांचा एक कर उसे सड़ांध मारती बावड़ी से खींच कर बाहर लाने का वक़्त है।
जो भी यह सोचता है कि कोई भी अध्यक्ष बने, कांग्रेस आगे बढ़ती रहेगी, वह महामूर्ख है। किसी भी राजनीतिक संगठन का मुखिया सिर्फ़ रूप-मूर्ति नहीं होता है। वह एक ऊर्जा-स्त्रोत होता है--निराकार ऊर्जा-पुंज। भारत की लोक-आस्था में चाहे जो यह स्थान प्राप्त नहीं कर सकता। ख़ासकर आज के ज़माने में तो बिल्कुल नहीं। राहुल आहत हैं कि उनके अपने भी उनकी राह पर चलने को तैयार नहीं दीखते। उनकी व्यथा है कि उनके हमजोली भी उनकी सुनने को राज़ी नहीं लगते। उनका संताप है कि बहुत-से लोग ऐसा दिखावा कर रहे हैं, जैसे कुछ हुआ ही न हो और अपनी जवाबदेही से बच रहे हैं। इसलिए राहुल ने जवाबदेही की शुरुआत ख़ुद से कर दी। 
राजनीति की दुनिया है ही ऐसी कि इसमें रिश्ते इतने कच्चे होते हैं। इससे क्या दुःखी होना? राहुल को समझना चाहिए कि हमारा इच्छा-स्वातंत्र्य तो हमेशा हमारे साथ होता है, मगर हम अपनी इच्छाओं को पूरा करने के लिए हमेशा स्वतंत्र नहीं हैं। कांग्रेस का नेतृत्च छोड़ने की अपनी इच्छा पर डटे रहने का यह मौजूं वक़्त नहीं है। यह तो ग़लत बातों के खि़लाफ़ दृढ़ता दिखाने का वक़्त है। नरेंद्र भाई मोदी की हाहाकारी उपस्थिति से दो-दो हाथ करने का अद्भुत माद्दा रखने वाले राहुल अपनी पार्टी के भीतरी खोखलेपन को दुरुस्त करते समय भावुक होने लगेंगे तो कैसे काम चलेगा? बिना किसी मुनादी और नगाड़ेबाज़ी के काम करने का हुनर सबको नहीं आता। राहुल को यह आता है। यह कहने वाले तो रहेंगे कि आज कांग्रेस की इस हालत के लिए राहुल भी इसलिए ज़िम्मेदार हैं कि उन्होंने अपने हमजोली चुनने में चूक की। मगर मैं मानता हूं कि बावजूद इसके उनके अलावा कोई और कांग्रेस का इसलिए उद्धार नहीं कर सकता है कि राहुल में अपने भीतर की यात्रा करने का जो जज़्बा है, वह कांग्रेसियों में दुर्लभ है।
इंद्रप्रस्थ की स्थापना के बाद महर्षि नारद ने युधिष्ठिर और अन्य भाइयों से प्रशासन संबंधी जो चर्चा की, उसका महत्व चिरंतन है। महाभारत के सभा-पर्व में इसका बहुत विस्तार से ज़िक्र है। नारद पूछते हैं, हे राजन! आपके चारों तरफ़ जो मित्र हैं, जो शत्रु हैं और जो न मित्र हैं, न शत्रु हैं; उन सबकी गतिविधियों पर आप नज़र रखते हैं या नहीं? क्या आप उसके अनुसार अपनी योजनाएं बनाते हैं? जो आपके मित्र हैं, क्या वे भरोसे के हैं? क्या आपके पास सही सलाह देने वाले मंत्री हैं? क्या उन सबका आपसे लगाव पक्का है? नारद ने पांडव-भाइयों से कहा कि राजा की विजय सही सलाह पर ही निर्भर है। महाभारत में कहा गया है कि वह सभा नहीं, जिसमें वृद्ध न हों। वृद्ध यानी बुड्ढे नहीं--तपे-तपाए लोग। और, वे वृद्ध नहीं, जो धर्म नहीं बताते। और, वह धर्म नहीं, जो सत्य नहीं। और, वह सत्य नहीं, जिसमें छल-कपट हो। राहुल को इन बीज-मंत्रों का ताबीज़ अपनी बांह पर धारण कर लेना चाहिए।
जब लोग आपको दोष दे रहे हों, आपको समझ नहीं पा रहे हों, ऐसे वक़्त में मुस्कराने के लिए आपको भीतरी ताक़त की ज़रूरत होती है। जब स्थितियां उस तरह की न हों, जैसी आप चाहते हैं तो अविचलित बने रहने के लिए आपको डटे रहने की क्षमता, शक्ति और साहस की जरूरत होती हे। गीता में कहा गया है ‘समत्वम् योग उच्यते’। यह सम-भाव ही किसी के भी जीवन की असली परीक्षा है। कस्तूरबा का अंतिम समय था। महात्मा गांधी की आंखों में आंसू थे। उन्होंने कहा कि आज मेरे सम-भाव का सबसे बड़ा इम्तहान है। मुझे याद है कि राहुल ने अपने विवाह के बारे में पूछे गए एक सवाल के जवाब में कहा था कि उनकी शादी तो कांग्रेस से हो चुकी है। सो, मरणासन्न पड़ी कांग्रेस के सिरहाने बैठे राहुल के सम-भाव का भी आज सबसे बड़ा इम्तहान है।(लेखक न्यूज़-व्यूज़ इंडिया के संपादक और कांग्रेस पार्टी के राष्ट्रीय पदाधिकारी हैं।)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Crossroad of Congress history

 What Congress essentially requires is a new structure and spirit 

Pankaj Sharma
23 Jun 2019

After a very brief tenure of just one-and-a-half year as Congress President, Rahul Gandhi decided to quit his position around a month back and his party is in an unprecedented dilemma ever since. Rahul's ultimatum period to find a new president in his place within a month will end in the next few days. Congress Working Committee (CWC) had unanimously rejected his resignation and gave him all the powers to restructure the party at all levels in the hope that he will take his resignation back, but all the efforts to persuade him for a rethinking on his decision turned out in negative during the past one month. Also Read - Communism leaching It now seems almost certain that despite a deep gloominess within Congress over his decision, the party has to find someone else to occupy Rahul's chair by the end of this month. After the results of 2019 general elections, Rahul also told CWC on May 25 that no member of Nehru-Gandhi family will take over the presidency. It has made the exercise to choose another face even more problematic. Deciding about the future presidency cannot be painless for Congress at this juncture for various reasons. A very low level of morale of the party workers after a consecutive second debacle in the national elections needs a boost by very strong and dependable leadership. If not even Rahul, Priyanka or Sonia Gandhi, who else will be able to provide such encouraging hegemony? There could be divergent views among some of the senior and middle-level leaders about the capability of primacy Rahul has, but the foot soldiers of Congress across the country have a universal recognition for his resolve, especially after the campaign he ran during the 2019 election. They seem in no mood to welcome any other personage as their captain. Also Read - Malaria's new biomarker CWC does not have powers to appoint a full-fledged president. It is authorised only to appoint a provisional president. Clause (h) of Article 18 of Congress constitution says, "In the event of any emergency by reason of any cause such as the death or resignation of the President elected, the senior most General Secretary will discharge the routine functions of the President until the Working Committee appoints a provisional President pending the election of a regular President by the AICC." That means anyone chosen by the CWC will have to get his appointment rectified during a special session of All India Congress Committee (AICC) where the members of the Electoral College for the President's election are present. I have no idea how creamy would it prove for the 'provisional president' when it is put on the consent test. Holding the AICC session cannot be delayed for long. Rahul Gandhi was elected, not appointed, as the Congress president on December 16, 2017, and an AICC Plenary session was called in four months' time after that on March 18, 2018. In the case of 'appointing' someone as the new president of the party, it ethically becomes more fundamental to put it for approval before the AICC at the earliest. An emergence of possible disquiet in the minds of Congress workers immediately after an unlikely face holds the fort in place of Rahul could prove to be a potent hindrance in the smooth sailing of the fresh incumbent. CWC is empowered to appoint a new president, but to make him admissible to the party on a pan-Indian basis; Rahul himself will need to walk many, many extra miles. He will have to equip new president with a team of dedicated implementers and a core group of few working presidents or vice presidents. It will not be a bad idea to set up a Parliamentary Board (CPB) consisting of the Congress President and nine other members, one of whom, as per article 25-A of the party constitution, should be the leader of the Congress in Parliament (CPP). In today's turbulent political weather, the active presence of CPB could play a very important role in installing the new president with required credibility and trust. It is impossible for Congress to take on the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and simultaneously grow as a strong political force without the active participation of Sonia-Rahul-Priyanka trio. To achieve this goal the party has to take a uniform approach. It has to go a long way with a common narrative with like-minded partners in different states. Congress has to draw a road map in over a dozen states where it drew a blank in these elections. Congress leaders have to put their heads together to find an answer to an unexplainable electoral outcome. One may call names to Nehru-Gandhi's so-called dynasty but it is a fact that to build a strong castle of Congress on firm ground, the party needs them now even more. Their absence from the scene will lead Congress to an inconsequential future. Congress must go ahead very carefully in choosing its next president in the backdrop of the stubbornness Rahul is showing. He has been persistent but being stubborn is different. People are stubborn about what they perceived to be the right thing or wrong thing. It takes a really long time to filter this human condition. There will be a waiting period with Rahul also until he catches up. But if you have patience — which it takes when someone thinks differently from you — everybody always catches up. So, patience is the only virtue for the Congress party at this crossroad. Rahul's plans might have failed but it should not be interpreted as his failed vision. His plans could not succeed because he had very few well-meaning executers around him. But his vision is intact. Visions don't change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same. They are always scrapped or adjusted as needed. Rahul is stubborn about his vision, but, I am sure, he is flexible with his plans. So, let Congress wait in a lounge for some time until his next course of action takes the shape he wants. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. We see the sun go down in the evening and the sun comes up in the morning. There are so many opportunities in the life of a political party that the loss of a few capabilities is not necessarily debilitating. Congress now must not miss any opportunity to be a part of political business in the 'Modi-Shah' era if it wants to survive and bounce back. You gain strength, confidence, and courage by experience in which you sometimes stop to look fear in the face. But if you have lived through this horror, you can certainly take the next thing that comes along. To be a champion, Congress has to see the big picture. It is not about winning or losing, it is about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. Therefore, Congress does not require a new president; it actually requires a new structure and spirit to adopt. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. Views expressed are strictly personal)

Learning to not fantasise

With improving ties with China, Modi’s firmness to keep Pakistan at bay outlines India’s hard-line approach 

Pankaj Sharma
16 Jun 2019

If the deportment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit is any indication of India's future direction of diplomacy in today's complex world scenario, I would say that we are witnessing a mature shift after an infantilism of five years. Without naming Pakistan and its supreme friend China, India urged nations to shed their narrow perspective and hold those responsible for promoting terror accountable. When Modi warned the nations participating at SCO summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek saying terrorism could singe people and countries anywhere and at any time, therefore, humanitarian forces should come out and forge a united front against the sponsors, his suggestion not only got a formal nod but received genuine open support. India also underlined the need for an open, rules-based and non-discriminatory trading system. Also Read - Communism leaching It was an important statement against the backdrop of the US-China trade war. Calling spade a spade in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan shows India means business and there will be less hugging episodes in coming days. Good that Modi is learning to keep away from fantasising and focusing on artfulness. Despite having seven opportunities in Bishkek when Modi could have interacted with Imran Khan, he avoided him completely and only once shook hands with him formally. At the same time, Modi had an extremely fruitful meeting with Xi on the sidelines of SCO summit and also invited Chinese President for a bilateral informal summit in India, which is supposed to be held at Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Modi, on 11-12 October this year. A few weeks ago, China advised India to have talks with Pakistan. During his meeting with Xi in Bishkek, Modi made it clear to him with due emphasis that any dialogue with Pakistan is not possible at this time as the process was derailed by Islamabad and now it needs to create an atmosphere free of terror first. Also Read - Malaria's new biomarker After an interaction at Bishkek and before an informal 'Wuhan-2' at Varanasi, Modi will have one more meeting with Xi in Japan during G-20 Meet. The frequency of Modi-Xi interactions generates a solid hope that a better synopsis of regional cooperation, development and stability will be written in future. It also engenders an assurance for improved global understanding in times to come. India has an exceptional role in shaping the new world order. India will require a sincere and steady approach while negotiating with China, Russia and USA – therefore positive symptoms in Modi's makeover, at least in the area of international affinity shown in SCO summit. If the composure and the keenness to reset India-China and India-Pakistan relations after a period of one-on-one tension between our three countries remain intact, a personal synergy between Modi and Xi has the potential to give a jumbo shape to region's prosperity after Varanasi engagement. After his reelection with such a thumping majority, Modi has acquired a position where he can take any steps he wants to improve bilateral relations with neighbouring countries. He can address the underlying issues that defy speedy solutions and prevent strategic shift. China and Pakistan are not unaware of the fact that their resistance in reciprocating New Delhi's gestures would be counter-productive to their own interests as India is in a better position than them with the United States and other powerful democracies in Europe and Asia. The outcome of Wuhan-2 at Varanasi will have far-reaching effects for China as it has begun to feel unprecedented heat on trade and other issues from Washington. Backed into a corner by the major superpower and seeking to consolidate his domestic position, Xi must realise the need to smoothen relations with India. I am of firm opinion that any government in India would be in favour of having good relations with China, and even with Pakistan. But to make it possible both these countries need to change their habits of out-crying. Indian government certainly prefers more placid relations with Beijing. It will require China to make corrections in its rhetoric, explore common grounds, improve dialogue and re-sensitise to India's interests. The blessedness of 'Wuhan-2' depends on the overarching question of who will be Asia's alpha in years to come. China will have to relook dimensions of its longstanding friendship with Pakistan. Before spending time at the banks of Ganges in Varanasi, Xi will have to make up his mind to respond to the unresolved border disputes and sizable asymmetries with India. Though I do not endorse Narendra Modi's innuendo of India's extra friendly approach towards China by maintaining official distance from the Tibetan government-in-exile when he did not invite Dalai Lama for his oath-taking ceremony after becoming PM for a second term; I am sure, Xi will have to face India's concerns over Tibet during the informal talks with Modi while sailing on the holy water in Varanasi. Belt and Road Initiative, any repeat of Masood Azahar type incidents and issues related to Nuclear Suppliers Group is something that will require cautious handling from both sides. There could be other issues too, such as economic strategy for the Indo-Pacific, the reintroduction of a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, cybersecurity threats, 2+2 summitry, and skyrocketing arms sales, China-Pakistan economic corridor, China's unnecessary claim on Arunachal Pradesh, presence of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, and so on. All of these questions will expect answers in Varanasi in October. Recalibration of India's China and Pakistan policy is not going to be a cakewalk for Modi despite his 'ThreeNotThree' victory in recent general elections. During electioneering, he had exploited Pakistan-China angle to such a hilt that it won't be easy for him to now sell any fairy tales in support of taking a U-turn. An environment to infuse positive sentiments among Indian masses can be built only if China and Pakistan equip Indian PM with required logics. For this, India needs China to take a more balanced approach towards Pakistan and show greater appreciation for New Delhi's core interests. An outright accommodation by the Indian government is unattainable as people of India have given a strong mandate to Modi this time to tell Islamabad where to get off and to out-compete Beijing in South Asia. Modi will never like to play younger brother and why will Xi take off grandmaster's red belt? Despite all the hiccups, Varanasi can prove a classic moment where Xi and Modi could open a new door in Sino-India relationship. It does not take a thousand men to open a door. But, yes, it takes an entire generation to keep it open. Wuhan and Varanasi spirit will be meaningful only when people-to-people intercommunication reaches to its preeminent. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of Congress. Views expressed are strictly personal)

MoSha v/s RaGa trigonometry

Rahul Gandhi must ensure a leap from current political arithmetic to reinvigorate Congress 

Pankaj Sharma
9 Jun 2019

Life is not about analysis of arithmetic data and certainly not if you want to win in electoral politics. It is more important to look deep into the algebra of electoral sentiments, to learn from mistakes and not repeating them if you want to secure a future. In real politics of elections, there is no such thing as one-plus-one is two and especially when you are contesting against the 'MoSha Methodology' — innovated by Modi-Shah duo in Indian politics. Also Read - Communism leaching You may make allegations against 'MoSha' and tell the world that EVMs were programmed. Who knows whether they were or not? You may blame 'MoSha' and tell the world that to infuse nationalism, achievements of the army were credited to political leadership and nothing could be more unethical than this to win a battle of ballots. You may abuse the Election Commission for not being impartial. You may say whatever you want. You may do whatever you can. But the entry of Narendra Modi's 'ThreeNotThree' soldiers in the lower house of Parliament is a fact that shall hover around the Congress party for a minimum period of five years. Also Read - Malaria's new biomarker But is the game for Congress, or for that matter entire Opposition, over? If one goes by the simple arithmetic, the future scenario seems gloomy. If an observer has the wisdom of reading the socio-political algebra of fast-changing passions that an Indian mind carry, s/he will tell you that the wind can blow in antithetical direction within no time provided Rahul Gandhi's Congress begins its march in a right direction. The road is certainly long and rough, but not unending. If 'RaGa' can consolidate his party with the music, that is the arithmetic of communication; and the optics, that is the geometry of light; his landing place is not very far away. In around half-a-dozen states and UTs, Congress could not win any seat in 2019 general elections while BJP has secured more than 50 per cent votes in as many states and UTs. Congress could secure more than half of the polled votes only in Puducherry. Around 60 per cent of Congress's 52 seats come from just three states — Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Despite this, one must not ignore the fact that Congress has got 40 per cent votes in six states — Chhatisgarh, Punjab, Kerala, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Goa. In Assam also it has got a decent share of 35.4 per cent votes. In the backdrop of an encouraging vote share in these states, Congress has to realise the need to work very hard in the Hindi heartland and among the electorate from the majority communities with a new roadmap. Hindus are not BJP's fiefdom. A large number of Hindus have voted for Congress also. But in the states where Congress has got more than 40 per cent votes, except Chhattisgarh, the common thing is that all of these states have substantial Non-Hindu population: 91 per cent in Nagaland, 89 per cent in Meghalaya, 61 per cent in Punjab, 45 per cent in Kerala, 39 per cent in Assam and 34 per cent in Goa. Congress must also beware of the fact that in Nagaland, despite getting more than 40 per cent votes, its vote share fell by 18 percentage points and the beneficiary is BJP's ally NDPP. Similarly, in West Bengal Congress's vote share went down by 4 percentage points and in all probability, it went to TMC. Rahul's Congress will have to make strenuous efforts in the states where it lagged behind BJP by 20 percentage points or more and where its own vote share is less than 35 per cent. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh fall in this category. Uttar Pradesh, of course, will need exceptional attention where Congress could get just 6.3 per cent votes and had to face a calamitous defeat in Amethi despite Rahul Gandhi getting 4.14 Lac votes in his favour. Congress's overall vote share has marginally increased compared to 2014. In Puducherry this increase is 29 percentage points, in Tripura, it is 10 points, in Meghalaya 9 points, in Tamil Nadu 8 points, in Delhi and Punjab 7 points, in Kerala, Assam and Goa 6 points, in Telangana, Jammu & Kashmir and Haryana 5 points. This means that in forthcoming assembly elections in Delhi and Haryana, Congress is in a position to perform far better than people expect at the moment. This is the time when Rahul must not waste a minute to finalise strategy for the states where the poll is due between October this year and January next year. 2019 election story is not about Congress's gains at the cost of BJP. Whatever little Congress could gain is at the cost of regional parties. Congress was detrimental to Left Front in Tripura and Kerala, AIADMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu, Akali Dal in Punjab TRS in Telangana, INLD in Haryana, AAP in Delhi and AINRC in Puducherry. In Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, Congress's gains are partly at the expense of BJP and partly AIUDF and PDP. Therefore, Congress needs to redesign its strategy to either associate with like-minded forces with a new drawing in its hands or opt for a stable and stretched path of going alone. Out of 899 million voters, 611 million went to more than one million polling booths to cast their votes in 2019 election. Among them, around 10 million were first-time voters. BJP got around 228 million votes and Congress 119 million. Around 61 million additional voters than 2014 elections voted in current elections. BJP got 57 million extra votes and Congress 12 million extra votes than in 2014. In 2019, there were 193 million additional voters than in 2009 who polled their votes. BJP secured 150 million more votes than in 2009. Congress, in fact, could secure almost the same tally as in 2009. With 19.49 per cent votes and only 9.57 per cent seat share in Lok Sabha against 37.36 per cent votes and 55.8 per cent seat share in Parliament, Congress cannot afford the luxury of lying on the couch of roses anymore. Among the 421 seats Congress contested, it won 52, came second on 196 and third or below on 173. Even on the seats it finished as runner-up, the margins are huge. The principal responsibility of Rahul-Priyanka duo would be to prepare their party for a big swing next time as smaller swings will not help it fighting BJP effectively. A swing of 2.5 per cent votes would take Congress to only 69 seats in 2024. A swing of 7-8 per cent will also get Congress just 106 seats. That means Congress will have to attract an overall swing of around 12 per cent to be able to win the race after five years from now. With refuelling the foot soldiers and by liberating his party from greedy deadwoods — even if they are young in age, Rahul can certainly achieve this goal. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Why Rahul, why not them?

Those recommending Rahul Gandhi to connect to masses overlooked his extensive exercise to visit diverse areas and connect with the different sections of people 

Pankaj Sharma
2 Jun 2019

It is amazing to find some Congress leaders suggesting that their party president Rahul Gandhi should go on a three to four month long walking tour of the country 'to connect with people'. There are suggestions that Rahul should remain the president but leave day-to-day functioning in the hands of a presidium, and go on a discovery of India on foot or by train. Are these people telling us that after his unfathomable journey of 15 years in politics, Rahul has no or less connect with masses? If this is what they meant, let me tell them that no one in the Congress party other than Rahul undertook such an extensive exercise to visit diverse areas and platforms to connect with the different sections of people. He, today, has much more exposure about people and issues than any of his contemporary party-colleagues including his seniors. Also Read - Communism leaching Most of us remember the days when Rahul Gandhi was advised by her mother and the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi to visit the remote rural areas across the country to understand the basics of India's socio-political realities. You may also recall that how after intensively touring villages, Rahul shared his realisation of the presence of 'two Indias, one of haves and one of have-nots' and vouched for working towards the welfare of have-nots. After formally joining politics in March 2004, Rahul has been successfully working to enhance his connect to masses. Also Read - Malaria's new biomarker For two years after entering into Parliament from Amethi in 2004, Rahul did not take up any other position. He only remained a member of the Lok Sabha. He was made General Secretary of the Congress party on September 24, 2007. For the next five-and-a-half years, till his elevation to the position of Congress Vice President in January 2013, Rahul made his sincere efforts to transform the youth and student wings of his party. He also tried to give Seva Dal a modern look. He picked up around three dozens of youth leaders from across the country through an in-depth exercise of interviews in November 2008 that created a think tank for the Youth Congress. The membership of youth and student wings increased from 2,00,000 to 25,00,000 in few months. Certain inbuilt flaws in the implementation of internal elections in these wings provided space to a section of party veterans for manipulation with IYC and NSUI turning into fence sitters. To understand the earnestness of Rahul Gandhi's keenness in connecting with masses, one can still visit Halki Bai of Taparian village in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh, who suddenly found a nice young man dressed in a 'ridiculously' white Pajama-Kurta standing at her door on April 12, 2008. To get a feel of life below the poverty line, Rahul undertook several such tours in the different parts of the country. His night stay in Shiv Kumari Kori's hut with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband at Simara village in Uttar Pradesh in January 2009 was also a part of his mission to discover rural India. This was also the year when Rahul addressed more than 125 rallies in six weeks during the polls for Lok Sabha. The same year, on a Wednesday of September, his 24-hour long 'secret' mission in UP kept everyone on tenterhooks till he flew back to New Delhi from Lucknow on Thursday evening — September 25. At the end of his trip on that Wednesday, at Lucknow's Amousi airport, Rahul eluded the local media and left to his mission. He took a Toyota Innova taxi that drove him to Rampur-Deogan village under Bhinga sub-division of Shravasti district along the Indo-Nepal border where he spent the night in the home of a Dalit — Chhedi Pasi. This was when Mayawati was the Chief Minister of the state. Who does not remember Rahul's local train journey in Mumbai in early February 2010? The same year in August, Rahul travelled to Niyamgiri Hills of Odisha where his efforts could stall the mining and spent time with tribals. He assured them that he will work as their sepoy in Delhi. A few months later his Bhatta-Parsaul movement shook the nation in 2011 where he was arrested. In 2012, Rahul campaigned for UP assembly polls for full two months and held more than 200 rallies. After taking over as the Vice President of the Congress party in Jaipur AICC session held in January 2013, Rahul accelerated his mass contact program. Even after 2014's debacle, Rahul did not sit at home. Once he recovered from the initial shock of this defeat, which was primarily a result of Narendra Modi's larger than life projection and the presence of too many amateur cooks in the Congress campaign kitchen, Rahul again began infusing his party with new vitality. After coming back from an undisclosed location where he went for meditation, he addressed a huge rally of farmers at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan on April 19, 2015. The same year he fought with full endurance against the land bill introduced by the ruling BJP in Parliament. Rahul's visits to campuses within and outside the country also created huge waves in favour of him and his party's ideology. His ideas have been attracting large fan-following for him. His speeches could catch the attention of a large section of corporate India when he interacted at forums such as FICCI and CII. Rahul's participation at different forums of Indian diasporas in the US, UK, Germany and UAE hooked up a huge section of Indians with him. Rahul Gandhi's interaction with students at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University, where thousands of students were present to listen to him and ask questions, proved milestones. When he spoke his mind at the forum of NRIs at New York in September 2017, his claim as a strong and long-required alternate to Narendra Modi was clearly established. His public engagement at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in August 2018, where he addressed a gathering on 'India's Economic Growth and Foreign Policy in an Uncertain World' reassured everyone that he could be a better replacement to Modi as the next prime minister of India. Rahul's address to UK parliamentarians at a cross-party event at the Grand Committee Room in Britain's House of Commons, in an 'In-Conversation' event at the London School of Economics and dinner meeting organised by the Mayor of Richmond at the Old Town hall in the south-west London proved that he has capability at par with any world leader when it comes to having a global vision. Indian campuses were equally thrilled to get a glimpse of Rahul's range of views for the betterment of India. His interaction in the Mount Caramel College at Bangalore in November 2015 and in Stella Maris College at Chennai in March this year left historical imprints. More than any other person in his party, Rahul is aware of the fact that rising tide doesn't always raise all boats. What about the people who don't have a boat? He realises the prerequisite to give them the infrastructure to rise with the tide. Not Rahul but they, who suggest a walk-tour for him, must tour India on their foot. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Rahul more imperative now

Rahul Gandhi's presence is more imperative in a bid to revitalise Congress and revive it from the electoral debacle it has faced 

Pankaj Sharma26 
26 May 2019 

Despite whatever his bête noire might say, it is my firm opinion that Rahul Gandhi has become more imperative, not only for the Congress party or for anti-BJP Opposition, but for India's polity. After a bulldozing 'ThreeNotThree' victory of Narendra Modi, it may sound absurd, when I say this. After a flagrant defeat of the Congress party and an embarrassing loss which Rahul faced in his decades-old family constituency in Amethi, my opinion will surely attract strong disdain from various quarters. But I stand with Rahul Gandhi and say that the Congress Working Committee has obliged itself by unanimously rejecting the offer of Rahul Gandhi to resign from the presidency. Had Rahul written a letter of resignation, he would have simply used his pen to record his moral responsibility only. But he chose to do much more than this by agreeing for not leaving the command of his force at this crucial juncture. Also Read - Communism leaching There is no denying the fact that Congress has faced electoral disgrace for the second time consecutively. There also cannot be a denial of the fact that nothing could be more severe a blow than the defeat of Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. But party insiders will tell you that the coterie surrounding him needs more objurgation for all this than Rahul himself. No one can raise a finger on Rahul's efforts, performance and the required killing instinct in a political battle with self-restraint that he showed, especially, in the past two years. But for Rahul's intensity, Congress would have vanished if this was the NaMo undercurrent across the country. He toiled day and night to fight this vigorous battle in most challenging circumstances. Also Read - Malaria's new biomarker Now is the time for Rahul to fully recognise the challenges, the failures, and the shortcomings, resulting in this mandate. Only a thorough, honest and affirmative introspection and equally conscientious implementation of the outcome of that analysis can save and revive Congress. If Rahul fails in completely overhauling his party with detailed restructuring at every level this time, there would not be another day left for him. A plan to this effect must come into force at the earliest. Rahul has to be very careful with the scheming forces within his party who have acquired an expertise in the science of dilly-dallying to keep them protected from any upheaval. Congress Working Committee has passed a resolution that says, "Congress party has lost the election but our indomitable courage, our fighting spirit and commitment to our ideology remains stronger than ever. We shall continue its fight against forces that thrive on hatred and division." Only Rahul remains duty-bound to give a true meaning to these words through his actions in times to come. It is good to be a gentleman but political management sometimes requires little ruthlessness too. There are numerous instances when his political lieutenants took no care in executing his plans, programmes, and instructions. No commander can win any battle if he has such teammates with him who do not bother to carry out their captain's directives. Narendra Modi government is bound to face various challenges from day one. Nation will watch him negotiating with the issue of surging oil prices post-sanctions against Iran. The banking sector is in dire straits with uncontrolled and unchecked NPA's soaring to nearly Rupees 12 lakh crores. During five years of Modi-government, the stability of banking operations has gone down to a threatening low. The downturn of the economy coupled with lack of private investment and a steep fall in consumption patterns, point towards a grave economic slowdown. India will watch Modi handling this problem. The looming job crisis for the past few years has seen no solutions. The rate of unemployment is highest in the past 45 years and jeopardising the future of our young. The agrarian crisis continues unabated with large swathes of the country reeling under severe drought. Modi's track record of the last five years is an assurance that he will not be able to get a smooth ride on all these routes. Institutional integrity will remain under a cloud in Modi's second tenure too. Congress, therefore, would get ample opportunities to clamp the new government. But to avail them, a well-designed road map within and outside Parliament is required. Rahul has to reinvent organisational machinery that is more dedicated to the cause. Congress party's frontal organisations are lying in a badly crippled situation. Rather than acting as a strong force raising people's issues on the streets, Youth Congress has been converted into a hermitage. Too many experiments with the youth organisation of the party have taken its basic sheen out and it is at the moment neither here nor there. Rahul must refill it with fresh energy, spirit, and zeal. There are ways other than the direct elections in Youth Congress to avoid the dynasties taking control of the youth wing through nominations. If there is a tight vigil on the process of nominations and a strong will for not allowing vested interests to take control of any space in various party corridors, intruders can be sidelined. Unless Congress party's women's wing becomes free from its 'kitty party mindset', Congress is bound to be deprived of the support of half of India's population. Even if at the national level, Mahila Congress is seen as little active sometime, at the state level its presence is negligible and at district levels it is pathetic. Congress Sevadal is also on the same footing. The new generation has no inclination to work in Sevadal. Rahul must design a mechanism which can provide new and meaningful directions to both these frontals. Party's student wing also needs a new grammar and narrative with which it can rejuvenate campuses across the country. Having covered the Congress party as a journalist very intensely for two and a half decades and then working closely with it as a party-man, I have found that despite the utmost honesty in the efforts of the top leadership, Congress fails to yield the required results because of a tendency seeped among the middle-level party people to somehow grab the assignments and positions and then keep themselves busy in extracting personal benefits out of them. Another major flaw is that the party's central command has no structured instrument of monitoring the performance of position holders discharging responsibilities in different parts of the country. Rahul Gandhi, after taking over as the Vice President of the party, expressed his will to develop such a system while participating in a meeting of national office bearers spread over for three days at the party headquarters, but perhaps could not pursue it further. A total absence of such an eye has prompted most of the office bearers for taking their jobs more as a picnic than any mission. Tightening all these loose ends must now be Rahul's topmost priority without which it will be impossible even for any divine power to rescue Congress. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Combined global inquest

International media have been closely monitoring Lok Sabha elections in India and conclude that Modi is unlikely to compete with his performance in 2014 

Pankaj Sharma
19 May 2019

The world is also eagerly waiting for the outcome of 2019 Lok Sabha elections in India. International media is abuzz with the assessment of the political situation that will emerge after elections in India and its impact worldwide. Global eyes are focused on the question whether Narendra Modi will return as the prime minister or not? None of the world press or psephology experts or think tanks seem assured for Modi getting a clear majority for his Bhartiya Janata Party to form the government this time. Also Read - Communism leaching Major American news publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, Newsweek and Time magazine have expressed serious apprehensions about Modi's return in the editorial comments, articles and news reports published during the past one-and-a-half month. TV Channels CNN, CBS, Fox and ABC have aired programmes discussing the possibility of a change in government in India after these elections and its impact on Indo-American relations. Also Read - Malaria's new biomarker Time magazine has recently published a controversial article and named Modi as India's 'Divider-in-chief'. It said that 'world's largest democracy is more divided than ever' and questioned whether India can endure five more years of Modi government? The New York Times has published numerous opinion pieces discussing 'can India's prime minister maintain the power he has grasped?' The Economist sees the current contest as a 'struggle for India's soul'. A perceptive observer pointed out that under Modi, India's ruling party poses a threat to democracy. The adjectives and verbs used for the leader: despicable, dangerous, brutal, disaster, alienating, bullying, controlling, hounding, impetuous, wayward, excessive, and flamethrower. In an article published by The Washington Post, there are strong mentions of the failure of Modi's promise to transform India. 'In the world's biggest election, India's Narendra Modi pushes fear over hope', says the article and continues hammering Modi by telling the readers that 'five years later, those lofty expectations have not been met. The economy is not creating enough jobs, while farmers are struggling with debt and rising costs.' Financial Times, Britain's leading business daily, in its coverage of India, is extensive. It has published an article with the title 'Narendra Modi cannot take the backing of Indian business for granted'. The article underlines that 'one of the most vital challenges facing Modi government is the dire state of the country's state-owned banks, which account for two-thirds of national banking assets and have been hamstrung for several years by a mass of non-performing corporate loans.' An article published by Le Monde in France says, 'Fundamentally, the real issue at stake in this election is the Constitution in India of a left-wing coalition, both egalitarian and multi-cultural, the only coalition capable of beating the pro-business and anti-Muslim nationalism of BJP.' While discussing Indian election scenario in detail the article strongly mentions, 'Modi is massively funded by big Indian businesses.' Newspaper La' Figaro also did not trail behind in giving space to raising serious doubts against Modi rebounding in 2019 elections. Channels such as TV 5 Monde have also aired programmes expressing doubts over Modi's return after elections. Similar doubts have been raised prominently in various news reports in British newspapers Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Times, and The Telegraph. The discussions on major TV channels like BBC, ITV Network, and Channel Four also depict an uncertain picture of the outcome of India elections. A lookup of Australia's channels – ABC, SBS, Seven West Media and newspapers such as Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and Herald Sun also suggest that international media has been unsure of Modi's come back as prime minister throughout the electioneering in India. Canada's Toronto Sun and The Globe and Mail newspapers were full of news stories that depicted a totally confused polling trend. Community television and radio channels of Canada have also been strongly supporting a similar scenario. Ebullience in the Middle East and the Arab world over Indian elections had been phenomenal. Channels like Geo TV, Orbit Channel, Dubai TV, Bahrain TV, Al Jazeera, and Al Arabia and publications such as Gulf Tribune, Gulf News and Khaleej Times played exuberantly in discussing poll prospects for Modi and his BJP. Indian prime minister's 'radar remark' had a very strong negative impact on the image of India's leadership quality validating question about the future of our country in case BJP returns to power. Khaleej Times wrote, 'It's a pity that the Indian Air Force had to learn from Modi that it takes only a few cumulus clouds to dodge air radars.' Participants in panel discussions on Star News of Japan and Channel 5 of Singapore observed that BJP will not be in a position to cross 200-mark in Indian Parliament after the elections. When RSS ideologue and BJP's national general secretary Ram Madhav expressed his apprehensions on getting a clear majority by his party in an interview, his sentiments got vide coverage in international media. The scholars associated with various think tanks in different country quoted Madhav in support of their argument that it is not easy for Modi this time to reappear in a similar position that he enjoyed in 2014. In African countries too, the trepidation about Modi's unscathed position was no less. TV and print media in the whole of Africa was blowing with debate on BJP's chances of return. Channels – RTB, TV Africa, Multi TV, RTG, EM TV, Tele Sahel, and Sky NEWS transmitted a number of shows focusing on India's elections and in most of them, the assumption of the uncertainty of the outcome was strongly sunny. Newspapers Asianet Africa, Sunday Times and Die Son especially lend coverage to elections in India with headlines that suggest that it's not a cakewalk for Modi this time. Media in China, though did not communicate that it is absolutely sure of the arrival of the current government in India again, always indicated its inclination for 'a more stable coalition in India'. China Central Television, Beijing Television and CCTV-13 built up an argument that even if BJP does not get a clear majority, it will enjoy the position of the single largest party after the elections and would be in a situation to form more well-built political alliance than the current opposition allies. People's Daily, Global Times, China Daily and Shanghai Morning Post have been ferrying the similar ruckus. Hong Kong's TVB channel showed discussions on similar lines and HK newspapers such as South China Morning Post, Headline Daily, and Oriental Daily News also gave shape to this idea. In an article published by Global Times of China, it indicated that five years of Modi did not yield required fruits by saying, 'The country needs an efficient government, which is capable of addressing public issues, such as increasing employment.' It also raised a question, 'Even if it is said that India's election is the best demonstration of democracy, will it produce a government which can realise its goal? Or is it just a show?' To see the response to this inquest, wait only for three more days. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. Views expressed are strictly personal)