Last Opportunity For The Congress

Written by Malvika Singh | Updated: Jun 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
Heat and horror that is what hits one sitting in Delhi. Nothing seems to be going right. Travel advisories have killed the tourism business and the hesitant acceptance in the last two days that India is safe again may take time to filter through. President Musharraf and our leadership continue to have their periodic aggressive banter. The NDA and the Congress have endorsed a missile engineer to be the next President of India. We now have Vinay Katiyar as the chief honcho of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, another Narendra Modi-type leader whose mandate is obvious polarise the Hindu vote. One gets the sense that the BJP has decided to put in place and institutionalise all those who will deliver their agenda for the next general elections two years ahead. Work seems to have begun in earnest in the BJP camp. They seem to have had enough of trying to soft peddle with their varied partners and are preparing for their future.

On the other hand, the Congress Party, having upped the ante for a short span of time, seems to have fallen short once again. Their handling of the Presidential election saga is one example. It is clear to all those who watch the scene that when the younger and energetic minds in the Congress have their say and way, the party appears positive and acceptable. But, when the Motilal Voras and the Arjun Singhs have their way, the party looks tired, predictable and dying. An entire generation of new voters are put off and because of a lack of an energetic, modern and liberal alternative they move to the easy option the BJP. Old fashioned playing of politics a la the oldies in the Congress, is dead and gone. No one is attracted or motivated or inspired by that style or manner. The aged slogans pall. The navaratnas of the Congress, all above 70 years, should be given emeritus status to be consulted when required. They must not be in a position to call the shots. Each time they do, the Congress has to step down a couple of rungs. The young and middle-aged should be allowed, and I use the word consciously, to lead from the front. It can only improve their position.

Their handling of Gujarat was a disaster. Endless pleas to have an active Congress fell on deaf ears. Again, there could only be one reason the oldies trying to play politics of the old style not wanting to antagonise any Hindu constituents, being one of the reasons. Those days are gone and that kind of politics is over. Therefore, that age group politician needs to be out of the front line. They are detrimental to the Congress and are killing its move into a new and dynamic avatar. And the irony is that they will probably lose in the Gujarat elections despite their ambigious stance.

Finally, if the Congress believes that the NDA/BJP will undo itself over the next two years and they will romp home because of the lack of an alternative, they are mistaken. The BJP is being very proactive. The Congress will have to be even more so. They will have to counter every position the BJP/NDA takes that is against their position. They will have to unveil alternate strategies and present the alternate dream. Time is short. The Congress Party should be sharing space in the media with the ruling party but because they are not proactive in their positions and not vocal enough with their views, they are relegated to page seven, if that. Each time Sonia Gandhi has made a strong intervention, she has been hailed even by her critics. She should be out there, full time. The navaratnas need to know that she is not dependent on them, that they are, in fact, redundant and a political liability for the future success of the Congress. That is the simple fact. She has to assert herself, support the younger leadership, pitch them into the frontline and make the party move. The second rung leadership must be inspired and motivated rather than be allowed to wallow in deep frustration. This is the last opportunity for the Congress to reinvent itself.