Himachal : Congress can still reform after a humiliating defeat
Last elections concluded with victory for Virbhadra Singh and his son when party went down the hill to its rock bottom. Belatedly the party in Himachal had introspection meeting to find reasons for going down so badly in the assembly elections. The newly appointed President of the party Rahul Gandhi specially flew in to Shimla for a session with party leaders. What turned out in the end is that which was known to all but no one seemed to pin down to spell out the responsibility and accountability. General statements were finally made that the leaders did not have link with grassroots and connect to masses. Rahul left an aphorism for the followers to connect with masses. Yes the leader should command influence on the followers and be true leaders but did Rahul has any vision that he gave to his workers or did he get to lay down a charter of work, training and change of the existing morasses? No such insight has emerged from the atambodh. Even failure to pin down responsibility even on observers who were in charge of state election failed and should have been removed.
What could be sidelight of an important meeting turned out to be main headline hunting game for media in slap of Asha Kumari to a guard and receiving one from two happened to be boxer CRPF lady. Asha should not have lost her cool but the organisation of meeting and access arrangement of the newly elected legislators to their own official conference was badly planned. Such mismanagement had become the typical functioning of the party. No wonder sloppy working had become the routine in the party. That is why no one even commented except that Virbhadra Singh mentioned it as the main cause of entry mess but even he did not say what the root cause was.
Rahul bemoaned disconnect of leaders with masses but Virbhadra Singh rightly defended the leaders and blamed the wrong selection of the candidates for election resulting in humiliating defeat. Singh was explicit in indicating the lack of support, leaving him lone fighter, when everyone except him went to Gujarat Central leadership of Congress did take Himachal for impending loss as cyclic necessity. They could have done a better fight than what happened by supporting fully Virbhadra Singh which he badly needed. But in internal warfare Virbhadra Singh also excelled as he ensured that his rivals in the party got eliminated which included Kaul Singh, G.S. Bali. He also indirectly offered support to those who were fighting the official candidates for example against Kaul Singh, Bhajji and many others. Of course the loss of Asha in race was her own doing unless she crosses the jinx in course of time. She had potential to lead Congress one day if given proper opportunity and grooming. The party must think in long term and develop a vision. The organization of the Congress is in total disarray as no leader has command over the grassroots organization except Virbhadra Singh and no streamlining of the structure or development of the younger talent has been given serious attention. Even election was fought willy-nilly by fragmented block and districts.
Is the party prepared for professional diagnosis of the anatomy and malady of the party by pondering over a pre-documented analysis with facts to check how they went wrong and how they should reorganize for the future? It failed in proper analysis. The biggest blind sport that the party missed to examine total failure of government of the state when it was unable to clear a central university and ensure minimum of good law and order level as seen in the Kot Khai rape case. There was wide resentment in the public when even heads of police had to be arrested. CRPF gaurds”s slap on a senior leader was indicator of poor management of important meeting. So was wide scale negligence of state which too contributed to loss of Congress. It is very common to talk of anti-incumbency but it has proved to be fiction as in cases of good governance the parties have held on for two, three or even four terms. Nothing should be done to find escape routes and some negligent acts must be punished based on valid data and information. The party must undertake a professional search for right vision and not get misled by Jumlas. It is high time to undertake complete overhaul of the party and its structure but there are no signs it will be done.
(The writer is former Chairman, International
Airports Authority of India)
By Prof NK Singh