Building a team of 50 — more than the number of MPs the party has in the Lok Sabha — to lead its revamp is a luxury the Congress could have avoided at this stage. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has had several teams of advisers over the past three years to steer his ship, dealing with the whole paraphernalia of campaign. Though the details of the jobs done by them are not visible to all, their performance was openly questioned by Mr Gandhi’s party colleagues, who, however, took care to see that he himself was not held responsible for the Congress’s stupendous debacle in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.
It is understandable that Mr Gandhi needs solid organisational support to revitalise the party. But now the Congress should use the existing set-up to look for the things that went wrong, what kind of messages were delivered to the electorate and in what manner, what should have been communicated more forcefully, and so on. Also on the list of 50 are names such as Madhusudan Mistry and Sachin Pilot, whose performances both in the run-up to the elections and during the polls were nothing to write home about. After the stunning defeat in the assembly elections in four states in December last year Mr Gandhi had promised to change the party in ways “one cannot imagine”. He did make efforts, such as introducing US-style primaries, which did not yield much result. Add to this the additional factor of senior Congress functionaries finding the new regime under Mr Gandhi not too comfortable and sometimes this has the potential to lead to subterranean revolts against the party leadership, leading to the defeat of party candidates. One is not sure if these things have been addressed by Mr Gandhi and his closest advisers. The post-mortem should be easy now because Mr Gandhi is reported to be in makeover mode.
One way for Mr Gandhi to begin the post-mortem is to explore how the money for the MP Local Area Development Fund was spent. Each MP gets Rs. 5 crore a year (earlier it was Rs. 2 crore), to be spent on the areas they represent. Since much of the money goes unspent or spent on not so productive activities, the impact on the economy becomes negligible even by local standards. Had this not been so, we would not have heard so frequently of the anti-incumbency factor. Mr Gandhi could chart out the areas in which the money can and should be spent. Another field the Congress could look at is grooming candidates keeping the next general elections in mind, ironing out possibilities of infighting and factionalism by hammering home the point that the party’s success is actually a success for every Congress worker.