All good men to the aid of the Congress party?
Some might say that this kind of divided authority might lead to a lot of faction fights within the party, but under the circumstances, I think this is the Congress’s best shot at salvaging face for the upcoming assembly electionsUpdated: Jul 16, 2019 23:29 IST
I have never come across a more unusual arrangement than the Congress hasevolved in Maharashtra – a president of the Pradesh Congress committee, assisted by multiple working presidents.
Some might say that this kind of divided authority might lead to a lot of faction fights within the party, but under the circumstances, I think this is the Congress’s best shot at salvaging face for the upcoming assembly elections, barely 80-90 days away.
The Lok Sabha elections proved a non-starter for the party, given the then state president Ashok Chavan, who was in office for nearly five years, did not receive much co-operation from large sections, despite Rahul Gandhi’s implicit faith in his hand-picked Pradesh president. Perhaps the mistake was to concede the opposition space to the Shiv Sena – which is itself an unusual arrangement in Indian politics where a party is both in the government and bitterly challenging its own ally in the ruling dispensation.
I remember asking Chavan then about why the Congress was not taking up issues like the Shiv Sena was doing and he had said, “We do.
But we do not make it to the media because it is more titillating for them to have a ruling party challenge a powerful ally in government. But where it matters, among the people, they know.”
But apparently they didn’t, for ultimately the Shiv Sena seemed to have got away with both, the opposition and ruling space. However, what Chavan told me then made it apparent that the Congress was a party of gentlemen who played it by the book as did Rahul Gandhi during the Lok Sabha campaign against sneering, abusive opponents on all fronts, including social media.
The entire new team now is no different – soft spoken and refined gentlefolks, all and that also goes for the lone woman on the team. But the eclectic mix of castes, religions and regions among these top executives gives a glimpse into what the virtually headless Congress is attempting to recreate – its past, wherein it represented all sections of society but now lacks a singular leader who can weave them all together behind the party. Playing to the strengths of each of these leaders and the utilisation of their individual skills wherein each will be compelled to do his or her best for themselves might contribute to the overall party strength and might not be such a bad thing after all.
Usually, Congressmen are great experts at non-co-operation, defeating each other and bringing down their leader at whatever levels. It was apparent from Gandhi’s outburst soon after the Lok Sabha results that there were many senior leaders working only for themselves or their sons contesting the elections. Although the Gandhis are still the only pan-Indian leaders in the party, it might have been a good idea to evolve an identical arrangement at the Centre with Gandhi as the glue that held them all together.
I am not sure how much of a glue Balasaheb Thorat will prove to be for his handful of working presidents, but perhaps his soft-spoken demeanour and fierce commitment to the Congress against all odds are better placed to deliver the best to the party, with as much help as he can get from his team, in the short time available to the Maharashtra Congress for the assembly polls.
This arrangement is unlike that evolved by Andhra chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy with his own set of multiple deputy chief ministers in order to stem resentments and dissent or prevent the rise of a challenger by not concentrating power in just one hand. If each of the working presidents concentrates on just his/her regions and communities and brings in at least 10-20 seats each, it would not only maximise human resources but also save the Congress from the expected decimation in October.
The Congress, after the passing of former chief minister Vilarsrao Deshmukh, who knew the state like the back of his hand, is left without not just an orator but also no match to, forget the BJP or Shiv Sena but, als Sharad Pawar and the NCP.
Pawar, at the end of the day, is simply not interested in helping the Congress back to power.
A multi-pronged challenge to all those opposed to the Congress could not only divert their attention but better place the Congress to shed its dependence on just one leader, in the state or the Centre, and connect with the people. Provided, of course, these working presidents themselves don’t scratch each others’ eyes out before the elections.