Cosmetic changes not enough, Cong needs to use its robust second rung of leadership
A little first aid here and there simply will not do. The Congress, seemingly in terminal decline, needs a major surgery to recover from this cataclysmic defeat at the hands of the BJP. So there are many things that will not work. One certainly is to replace one Gandhi face with another Gandhi face as some loyalists are suggesting.
The rot has gone too deep for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to set right should she replace her brother Rahul Gandhi. Even if Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who still enjoys considerable popularity, were to take full charge of the party, it still needs a major vision overhaul.
It has to undergo a drastic mindset change and re-evaluate many of its core principles, among them the relevance of dynastic rule. As the Congress Working Committee (CWC) soul-searching meet ended, the party seems to be either unwilling or unable to come up with any decisive action, which will signal a new beginning. There was, of course, the expected offer from both Sonia and Rahul to resign and the expected refusal by the CWC to accept this.
Instead of having a CWC meeting comprising many of the defeated leaders, a better and more constructive thing would have been to call in the state leaders and confer with them on the specific needs of the states where the party did badly. There cannot be an omnibus blueprint for course correction. If the Congress were serious about affixing blame, then surely Mr Gandhi should have resigned from his position and taken it upon himself to spend the next few years rejuvenating the party.
It was also an occasion to admit that the experiment with primaries did not work. The time for shielding non-performers has gone. After getting just 44 seats, the task of rebuilding the party is Herculean. But the Congress has the good fortune of having a robust second rung of leadership. It should make the maximum use of its younger leaders instead of hoping that the family will pull its chestnuts out of the fire. It must also examine why its grand social welfare schemes did not translate into votes. The voter today does not seem to want State largesse. Rather she wants employment opportunities and not perpetual dole. Also bringing up past sacrifices of the Congress leadership finds little resonance in today’s voter. The Congress cannot hope to paper over the cracks and carry on with business as usual.
A stint out of power will perhaps result in the party emerging leaner and meaner come the next election. But for that, some very tough decisions have to be taken now.