When someone points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger. Since the defeat of the Congress in the recent assembly elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand, and before that in the municipal elections in Maharashtra, partymen have been finding various explanations for its bad show. These include anti-incumbency, spiralling prices, the presence of divisive partners, even good policies by the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre that are seen as being ‘too unpalatable’ for the voting masses in the states. In other words, everything, but the possibility that something could be rotten in the state of the Congress itself. While reasons for the slide do include the ones tom-tommed by the party machinery, the core problem lies elsewhere: organisational disconnect. It is the public acceptance of this fact by Congress President Sonia Gandhi that could be the first step towards damage control.
Speaking at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, Ms Gandhi did not shy away from the fact that the party failed to work unitedly during the state elections. Flicking on the organisational switch only before polls is also not the right way to go about things. Voters have a short memory, but not that short a memory. Ms Gandhi also pointed to the disconnect between the people — their “sensitivities and expectations” — and the Congress at the ground level. It is no secret that the Grand Old Party may be guilty of expecting too much from its brand equity alone. Ms Gandhi also brought up the matter of subjugating “individual ambitions to larger party objectives” — again not difficult to gauge when one considers the inter-party join-the-dots made by state-level Congress leaders while cutting their own deals.
Internal chaos notwithstanding, other issues like price rise did affect the Congress prospects in Punjab and Uttarakhand. This will also have to be borne in mind by party stalwarts as the Congress goes into election mode in Uttar Pradesh. No government at the Centre can afford to work in a manner that affects its political prospects as a party. At the same time, it is a moribund government that is led by party considerations alone. In the age of coalition politics, this is a doubly tricky tightrope walk for the Congress to make. But like charity, organisational prowess also starts at home. And that is something that the Congress President has underlined in her speech.