If George Orwell was alive today he would have been tempted to write another allegorical and dystopian novella – The Congress Farm. The only difference being, unlike the Animal Farm, the Congress Farm will have only rats helmed by a Grimalkin and a Tomcat playing a supporting role.
The farm has since been metamorphosed into a ship, rather a sinking vessel. Fantasy apart, rats have literally started jumping off the ship. Seeing no light at the end of the Congress tunnel and fuelled by personal ambitions the desertions have begun and may assume serious proportions in the days to come.
The last few weeks saw several veterans, including former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, AICC General Secretary and Maharashtra strongman Gurudas Kamat and former Uttrakhand CM Vijaya Bahuguna quit the party.
More resignations may be in the offing, triggering an existential crisis.
Can Rahul Gandhi rise from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix? With the AICC abuzz with talk of his impending elevation as Congress president, here are 10 suggestions for the Gandhi scion to reenergise a seemingly moribund party:
1) Stop All Experiments
Howsoever well-intentioned Rahul may be, the experiments – some naive, some sound (like selecting candidates as is done in the US primaries, instructing state PCCs to maintain log books on those who shirk work, corporate style interviews for talent hunt etc) and his obsession with internal democracy, have not helped.
He should learn to prioritise. The experiments can wait. The party is in the ICU and the need of the hour is immediate surgery and concrete steps to revitalise the organisation. Go in for an immediate and thorough rejig of the AICC and PCCs to induct youth and experience.
2) Focus on States
Shift the focus to the states for micro managing instead of the national-level obsession with AICC politics. Categorise the states into groups – bi-polar states where the Congress is strong, multi-polar states where it is weak and states where it has not been able to wrest power even after half-a-century such as Tamil Nadu where it lost space 50 years ago ago to regional parties and has been unable to revive itself in UP and Bihar for nearly three decades. Do everything to revitalise the party from booth, district and state level and mentor, groom and strengthen local leaders.
3) Banish Sycophancy
Outgrow sycophancy and family loyalties. Mark and downsize sycophants and weather vanes. Select CM candidates and PCC presidents only after wide consultations with stake holders and local leaders to prevent ego hassles and factional feuds later.
4) Counter NDA’s Expansion
Forge smart and tactical alliances with smaller and fringe parties, social groups and NGOs to prevent further expansion of NDA and minimise division of anti-BJP votes.
5) In-House Intelligence Gathering
Set up an effective in-house intelligence gathering machinery to keep a tab on what is going on in the opposition camp as well as in PCCs and the AICC to check on the moves and motives of rebels. If there are genuine grievances they should immediately be addressed, and if some are plotting to sup with opponents to undermine the party, take quick remedial action. Such a system would have prevented an Arunachal Pradesh-like situation where the government was toppled by the BJP with the help of rebels.
It appears the party has no clue what is happening in the rival camps, especially in the BJP and what the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo are up to. When Indira Gandhi was PM, her trusted aide R K Dhawan, was able to gather useful information on the moves of opposition leaders as well as Congress rebels and nip potential rebellions in the bud.
6) Move Beyond Traditional Vote Bank
Stop the obsession with aam aadmi, minorities and dalits. Court them and empower them at the grassroots level without making a song and dance so as not to alienate the aspirational and middle class.
7) No More Soft Hindutva
Tweak and repackage the much maligned slogan of “secularism” and stop playing soft Hindutva. While Congress opponents use these slogans to paint the party as anti-Hindu, young India is not impressed with hollow shibboleths. Take all steps to convert the party into an authentic left-of-centre entity to encompass all sections of society. There is still a vast socio-political space open to tap. After all, the BJP could secure only 31 percent of the popular vote in 2014.
8) Build a Cadre
Try building a party cadre on the lines of the RSS and the CPM.
9) Involve Party Veterans
Stop relying heavily on a bunch of professionals for political decision-making. Take inputs from them but political decisions should be made in consultation with active party veterans.
10) Take AAP Seriously
Do not write off the Aam Aadmi Party. The new kid on the block is a bigger threat than regional parties as it has the potential to emerge as a national challenger.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist)