The 83rd plenary session of the Congress in its 125th year could not have been held at a worse time. The party and its government seem to be on the defensive in the face of allegations of corruption. It is also perhaps for the first time that the party workers participating in the plenary appear demoralised and are at a loss to counter the accusations being made by the opponents of the party, largely because of lack of proper direction.
As expected, the BJP is on the offensive. It has come out with the slogan, "Commonwealth ke chor, chale Burari ki ore” (The scamsters of Commonwealth Games are now headed for Burari — the venue of the plenary). The NDA has decided to hold anti-government rallies. The BJP's record in battling corruption is not good either, but this is no justification for allowing the scamsters to go scot-free.
For the Congress leadership, the challenge is to keep its workers energised since the mother of all battles will be fought in UP in 2012 leading to the finals in 2014 unless the parliamentary polls are held earlier due to political circumstances. The main charge against the Congress leadership is that it is not accessible to the common workers and the coterie that runs the show has done incalculable damage. There is neither any political strategy nor political management. There is no will to correct this perception, which at this stage can only be corrected through action, not words and resolutions.
The Congress has been unable to explain that it is a part of a coalition and some partners have let the UPA down. This is largely because it has either taken selective action against the corrupt partymen or looked the other way raising suspicions of complicity. It is true that the Congress may not have full control over what the DMK ministers were doing but it certainly should come down heavily on partymen involved in the Commonwealth Games loot and other scams.
The party has to introspect deeply to understand its own functioning. Its response to the cables sent by the US embassy in New Delhi has been mild, as a result of which what was stated may strengthen the public perception about the party and its leadership.
Rahul Gandhi must be told that in case he has to assume the party's leadership in future, he should be more careful with his words, expressions and actions. Attacking the BJP and Sangh parivar is understandable but equating them with Pakistan-based terror groups is something most citizens cannot digest. The impression that has been strengthened is that the Congress is biased towards minorities. This overemphasis on minority politics has distanced the majority community and the tragedy is that the minorities now prefer regional outfits and have little faith in the Congress.
The Prime Minister's image of being a clean person has also taken a beating thanks to the corrupt ministers. The Congress leadership seems ill-equipped to deal with the situation and it is time to act to, at least, counter the impression given by the US embassy that Ms Gandhi never "misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity".
Finally, it is time to fall back on Indira Gandhi's style of battling challenges: how she would have faced a similar situation and how she would have made a course correction. This can be done if the leadership makes amends for the mistakes, takes action against the guilty and makes the functioning of the party more inclusive. Between us.