At a time when the Congress needed to get its act together and signal resolve and cohesion, it has managed to underscore its internal confusion and chaos.
The Congress pulling out its spokespersons for a month should have the prime-time banshee-anchors of news channels worried—if they don’t have the Congress spokesperson to villainize and use as a punching bag, will they now have to report news? The Congress sympathiser is not the same game as a spokesperson, so what is to become of ratings? But, more than the TV anchors, it should be the Congress leaders who should be worried. After the drubbing the Congress received in the Lok Sabha elections, political watchers expected the party to look at radically reinventing itself. Nobody expected it to spiral further into crisis, with party president Rahul Gandhi bent on stepping down, uncertainty over which satrap becomes the uber-chief and whether others would submit and, most importantly, the future of its governments in three key states looking shaky. At a time when the Congress needed to get its act together and signal resolve and cohesion, it has managed to underscore its internal confusion and chaos. Amidst a leadership crisis, with the spokespersons not being part of the decision-making committees of the party, a self-imposed gag order would seem a good idea. But, this is an unusual time in the Congress’s history, and choosing silence at this time isn’t a sharp strategy.
The Congress’s fear of further miscommunication regarding its leadership crisis is real, but so is the need to signal that it is not disintegrating. The party leadership must remember that, though vastly reduced in strength, it remains the principal opposition party in the Lok Sabha, and to abdicate messaging at this juncture will cause further loss of faith in healthy opposition and increase media speculations—especially on the debates they so want to be away from. The Congress clearly needs restructuring and it has to happen transparently. In a democracy , keeping the fourth estate away is not an option.