Sonia has to end faction fights in State units because only its Assembly score can guarantee its revival
The Congress is in a piquant situation. With an interim president whose ways of running the party are well past expiry date, the promised fresh wave being just a stray whiff of hope that blew away with the Modi gale force, a demoralised cadre and scattered ranks still expected to gel as the face of the Opposition and senior leaders being probed, it is at the cusp of an evolution. And that is dependent on whether to continue legacy burdens like an emperor’s new clothes or not. The factionalism in State units perhaps presents an opportunity for the grand old party to become a brand new party. Although the generational change has not quite taken off — what with appointees of the Rahul Gandhi tenure resigning or being forced to step down following their electoral failures — and given the old guard enough room to call the shots again, it is Sonia Gandhi’s steadying hand, one that is still respected, that can actually harness mutual strengths. Agreed that Haryana Congress veteran Bhupinder Hooda is representative of the coterie seniors, who have built subsidiary empires without the responsibility of ownership and blackmailed party positions with their turf clout. But he has a command of the grassroots network down to the pore, one that Rahul Gandhi had upset with the appointment of Ashok Tanwar as State unit chief. And although Hooda, a Jat leader, was paired with Kumari Selja, a Dalit face, for the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress strategy fell flat because the leadership paralleled Hooda with its favourite Randeep Singh Surjewala. Now that Hooda has been made Congress Legislature Party chief, he might just stake all his energies that could benefit both him and the Congress. At one time, the party’s central leadership thrived on playing warring factions against each other in States to ensure their subservience to it. But now if the Congress wants to rebuild, it has to do so brick by brick, rather State unit by unit. It has to give up its old strategy, back the strongest horse and allow it a free run to get past the finishing line. The success of Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who held back the Modi wave and didn’t let the high command interfere in his choices and ticket distribution, shows that efficacious regional leaders can congeal as a spine of the party, considering legacy entitlements aren’t working anymore. The history of Congress-run State Governments shows that a continuity has been built only when it has allowed autonomy to the State leader as the Chief Ministerial face. And that it has bungled spectacularly whenever it has played factions — Madhya Pradesh was at one time a battleground of the Shukla brothers, Arjun Singh, Digvijaya Singh and Madhavrao Scindia. One does not need to remind that strong State leaders, who didn’t play stooges, now have regional outfits and governments, be it Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy and even the most successful export to the BJP, Himanta Biswa Sarma. Ironic though it may sound, the Congress may now have to borrow a page or two from the BJP’s playbook, which has always posited strong and charismatic State leaders, one of whom is now the Prime Minister. Besides, the party is lucky to have a new generation of leaders, who have volunteered to give up privileges of their birth, capital comforts and take charge of States. It is, therefore, important to give due credit and listen to young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora, who want to engage in meaningful politics before fossilising to old age. They did ensure Congress victories in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh Assemblies last year. Sonia would do well to restrain egoistic seniors from sabotaging new enterprise, one that is fuelled by dedication that, if unsatisfied, may turn into a rebellion.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer