Warning bells

It was born out of necessity in 2004, but when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won spectacularly in 2009 -  the Congress won 206 seats, 61 more than its 2004 tally - nearly everyone agreed it was a reaffirmation of people's faith in the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi leadership. Three years later, UPA II is beleaguered with allegations of scams, corruption and "policy paralysis", and once again all fingers are pointing at the party leadership.

The PM's stoic silence in the face of scams - 2G, CWG, among others - and Congress president Sonia Gandhi's undisclosed ailment and subsequent withdrawal from active politics for a couple of months beginning August 2011, added to the crisis.

Canny allies like the Mamata Banerjee used the Congress's predicament to stall several big ticket reforms and political initiatives. Spiralling inflation and the economic slowdown also added to the Congress's woes, but it was the drubbing in the recent assembly elections that was the last straw. Warning bells

With a dozen state elections due over the next two years, the task is now cut out for the Congress leadership - put the party back on track and once again turn it into a fighting machine. There is a growing clamour within the party to give Rahul Gandhi a bigger role either in the Congress or the government to turn the tide.

Rahul, however, has appeared reluctant to take charge. Along with AK Antony, Janardan Dwivedi and Ahmed Patel, he was one of the four members of a committee appointed to oversee the functioning of the party in Sonia Gandhi's absence last year. And though he led from the front in the assembly elections earlier this year, he has continued to focus on strengthening the party's youth and student wings.

The Youth Congress enrolled more than 13 million members since Rahul took charge in 2008.

After the 2009 win, Singh had said in his acceptance speech: "The youth of India, inspired by the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, have voted in large numbers for our party. But it is in the nature of the youth to be impatient. They will not tolerate business as usual."

There are two more years to go before the youth of India pronounce their judgment, but from the look of things, if the UPA II wants to complete its full term, and then return to power, it needs to reinvent itself and rethink its leadership.

 

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