No Shivir, No Chintan : only Hollow Discussion
The agenda was a spinal surgery but the Congress party returned with just a small bandage on its toe!! The three day Chintan Shivir where the congress leadership and 450 plus top leaders had gathered in Udaipur to look within, self analyse, introspect and pinpoint what was going wrong and why they were losing election after election . But alas that was not to be.
The leadership (read Sonia Gandhi) did not want too much of Chintan as a large part of the blame for the defeat in five state assemblies would have come on the head of both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. It was an exercise to keep congressmen busy and divert attention from what really was wrong with the entire All India Congress Committee (AICC) set up. Discussions were mainly on Modi bashing, price rise, farmers problems, economy etc etc. And there was little time for Chintan.
The problem was then solved by removing the word Chintan in the midst of the deliberations and it was business as usual in the Congress party. For a party looking at an existential crisis facing them, shrinking in state after state and no coherent answers on how to take on PM Narendra Modi or come to power, the Chintan Shivir, sorry Nav Sankalp Shivir failed to provide any answers to what may be the road ahead to power.
The Congress failed to tackle the two most important questions facing them: who would lead the party and be the face to take on Narendra Modi and how will the party wins elections and where would the votes come from?
The Congress did not discuss the main issue troubling party men: Hinduism vs hindutva and where did the congress ideology of secularism stand? Should they be pro-Hindu, pro Muslim, take a middle of the road approach or what?
No thought was applied to these very basic issues with disappointed delegates returning none the wiser on how the party would change the leadership perception crucial to their very survival? With leaders, workers and party men uncomfortable with the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, there were demands that Priyanka Gandhi should be made the Congress president as she had wide ranging popularity across the country.
This effectively has officially created a division in the Congress with more and more leaders privately endorsing the idea of Priyanka as leader, as Rahul Gandhi has been “reluctant to accept responsibility”.
The party in its three days of Chintanless Shivir tinkered with cosmetic changes which are an internal matter of the party but do not affect the public perception of why congress should get votes. It fell back on its same old routine of mass contact programmes, padyatras, 50 per cent posts and seats to youth under 50, one family one ticket with the Gandhis being exempt and so on.
Rahul Gandhi spoke about conversation, connecting, communication, dialogue, but he himself neither meets party men nor does he connect with them or has any conversation with them. As one leader put it, Sonia Gandhi does not meet party men because of ill health, Rahul simply does not meet party men, Priyanka has been busy in Uttar Pradesh and the next in line is k c Venugopal who understands neither English nor Hindi and is too busy with attending on Rahul to meet party men.
Most of them feel slighted, neglected and let down. If Rahul could not meet Jyotiraditya Scindia for one year and if a senior leader like Kapil Sibal has not met Rahul Gandhi since 2019, what would be the status of a larger number of lesser mortals in the party?
Rahul spoke about fighting the BJP-RSS ideology but had no formula to offer on how that fight would take place and how party men should take on the Hindutva ideology.
Effectively there are three power centres in the Congress and it is now no longer a secret that there are big problems between the brother and the sister and each has their own agenda on what is to be done.
Sonia Gandhi is completely fixated on making Rahul the leader. He takes decisions but refuses to take responsibility.
As one senior leader put it,” defeat in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections this year would spell the death knell for the congress and make a comeback almost impossible”.
The delegates returned from Udaipur having enjoyed Ashok Gehlot’s hospitality: staying in five star hotels, having good food, moving around in luxurious cars but most of them remained disheartened as there was no ray of hope or sunshine with the basic question remaining: how do they win elections?
The Gandhi family rhetoric was to keep party men busy with superficial issues as the family failed to dig deep and find the cure for the disintegrating fortunes of the Congress party.
Senior journalist Vir Sanghvi wrote that a 100 Chintan Shivirs cannot help the Congress party unless Rahul Gandhi is removed from the leadership of the party.
That remains the basic concern as public perception has refused to accept him as the leader.
Congressmen lack the spine to speak truth to the leadership and would be quite happy to let things be even if it means continuing with the lack lustre leadership of Sonia Gandhi with Rahul doing the back seat driving and Priyanka giving her two bit advice on most matters.
The Gandhis are running a chaotic circus which is becoming more confused with each passing day.
By Renu Mittal