Sunday, February 15, 2015

Make the Congress dodder-free

The party must get rid of those preoccupied with their personal interests

16 February 2015, New Delhi, Pankaj Sharma

n one year the Congress party has lost 10.65 lakh voters in Delhi. In the 2013 assembly elections, the party had secured 19,32,933 votes, with 8 seats out of 70. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress secured 12,53,078 votes with zero out of seven seats. Losing 7.69 lakh voters within few months was a serious loss. Nine months later, however, the party lost a further 3.86 lakh votes.
The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) had secured 26,04,100 votes in the 2013 Delhi assembly election, with 31 seats out of 70. In the subsequent Lok Sabha elections, it won 38,38,850 votes and all 7 parliamentary seats. The party witnessed a huge spike of 12.34 lakh votes. In the recent assembly elections, however, this count went down to 28,91,510 votes with only 3 seats. The number of votes dwindled by 9.47 lakhs, in comparison to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Aam Aadmi Party won 28 seats in 2013, with 23,22,330 votes in its kitty. But in the subsequent Lok Sabha elections, the party could not win a single parliamentary seat in Delhi. The party, however, secured an additional four lakh votes in spite of the general anger against the AAP for resigning after 49 days in office. In the recent assembly elections, though, the party secured a phenomenal 21.56 lakh additional votes in nine months. The Congress has been passing through a critical phase for last few years. The party has lost more than half a dozen important states apart from facing a rout in the last parliamentary elections. Most political commentators spared no hopes for the Congress in the recent Delhi assembly elections too. It could have managed to hold onto its previous tally of 8 seats under the best circumstances. With zero seats and a loss of more than one million, the party is looking down the barrel. Things are, however, even worse for BJP after one million Delhi voters transferred their trust away from it.

The jump of 12.34 lakh votes in favour of BJP in Delhi between 2013 assembly election and 2014 Lok Sabha election was representative of the electorate’s desire for change. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sold that desire in a spectacular manner. Similarly, a jump of 21.56 lakh votes in favour of the AAP between Lok Sabha elections and the Delhi assembly polls was an outcome of the electorate’s quest to find an alternative, an idea that Arvind Kejriwal sold. Both outcomes were based on emotion rather than hard reason. Kejriwal has also made big promises during his campaign, knowing full well that it would be difficult to fulfil them.

The Modi-led government’s inability to deliver in nine months has turned the wave of sentiment in favour of AAP because the Congress could not present itself as a viable alternative. Wait for nine months though. The AAP government’s inability to deliver on its promises will also compel people to look for a pan-Indian alternative. At that juncture, the Congress will find an opportunity to fill the vacuum. But that moment will only arrive if the Congress can present itself as a viable alternative. The party will have to work really hard to recover lost ground.

In the past few years, the Grand Old Party has seen a significant rise in dodders (cuscuta reflexa). These dodder-like leaders have nothing to do with the basic ideology of the Congress, hold no commitments to Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi and are busy protecting their own personal interests. They flourished by sucking the life blood out of the party’s hard earned credibility and reputation. Those in the top leadership, who were implementing the party’s agenda without a personal motive, can be counted on one’s fingers. The rest are still in the business of grabbing positions, creating pressure groups and furthering their cross-party interests. They don’t work for the party. The party organisation works for them instead. These leaders do not follow the agenda set by Rahul and Sonia. These dodders do not add anything substantial to the Congress party.

I would now like to make an unfashionable observation. Both Sonia and Rahul are very compassionate. While many see it as a weakness, true compassion is a characteristic that converts knowledge to wisdom.  Good political leaders use compassion to understand the needs of those they lead and determine the course of action that would best suit its party workers. It is do or die situation for the Congress now. This is the time to act firmly come what may. This is the time to change the Congress party’s story once and for all. Politics is a tough vocation, which requires distinct areas of expertise. One of those areas is to master the art of getting rid of dodders as soon as possible from all levels of the organisation.

The ever-changing political scenario will present an opportunity to the Congress party in years to come. The party, however, has to prepare itself for that moment. Success is where preparation and opportunity meet. By failing to prepare, one is set to fail. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend first four sharpening the axe.” I hope the Congress party’s fourth hour will come to an end immediately after the upcoming Budget session of Parliament.

Author is the editor and CEO of News Views India

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