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SYCOPHANCY, THY NAME IS DISASTER

Sonia-ji, The peopleís verdict is out. Your party has suffered a staggering defeat; worst ever in its tumultuous history. Some say, you and your party deserved this fate; you had, in fact, assiduously worked for it. The Modi-led BJP has achieved an astonishing landslide, becoming the first non-Congress party in independent India to get a clear majority in Lok Sabha on its own. It has earned this historic victory. Voters of India have, once again, punished those who they thought did not respect their trust and voted for a change. They rewarded someone who has instilled a ray of hope in dark, gloomy, dispiriting days and promised ďachhe dinĒ. But it isnít an open-ended carte blanche. When the time comes, the janata will take stock and pass its judgment again.

You and Rahul have, rightly, accepted the responsibility for your partyís humiliating defeat. Is it enough? What next? As in the past, you and your disheartened and demoralized leaders will huddle together in a chintan shivir.But there will be no honest chintan; shameless sycophants will bark at every tree on Akbar Road, but wonít say what they really feel. There will be no soul-searching, no real post mortem of the debacle. They will parrot the usual platitudes, pay tribute to you and Rahul for your untiring efforts and leadership. But they wonít offer any meaningful and achievable road-map for revamping the sagging Congress, which is experiencing the most serious existential crises since its birth. None can blame them ó chamchas will remain chamchas. With such incorrigible sycophants around you, do you need enemies?

What has brought down the Congress? Anger. Anger against you. Anger against Rahul. And anger against the party and the government headed by Manmohan Singh. The causes of this anger are obvious: rampant corruption, misgovernance, rise in prices, unbearable arrogance, utter insensitivity to the pressing problems of the common people, antagonization of corporate India, the middle class and the media, slowing down of the economy, disconnection with the people at large, especially with the youth, and so on. Above all, the absence of an energetic, dynamic and inspiring leadership, which the people could look up to. The credibility of your party and the government has touched rock-bottom. While people were willing to believe every charge made against them, they discounted every word uttered in their defence. Apparently, the corruption charges stuck, but protestations and denials didnít; they were dismissed disdainfully.

Anna Hazare brought to the fore the peopleís anger through his anti-corruption movement and demand for the passing of the lok pal bill. Kejriwal exacerbated and sharpened this anger with slogans against misgovernance, arrogance and callousness. Modi exploited this in the swell of peopleís anger, exasperation, frustration and longing for a change to the hilt. He also offered a viable alternative of hope, effective governance and overall economic development riding on his 15-year record in Gujarat. Shrill charges of him being an authoritarian, communal, divisive person who promoted crony capitalism and whose economic development did not reach some sections or communities of the society were dismissed with a shrug as if saying, So what? An impressive orator in Hindi and adept in connecting with the audience, he led a nationwide presidential-style campaign aggressively, energetically, tirelessly and inspiringly. It was executed by lakhs of committed and disciplined RSS cadre, an upbeat and focused BJP and hundreds of tech-savvy youth who offered their time, energy, zeal and expertise to conduct the most high-octane electronic media campaign ever seen in India. Lastly, his campaign had inexhaustible funds.

Modi is here to stay. Unless you perform a bold surgery fairly soon, the Congress is doomed. When a company makes huge losses, its CEO goes. It should be the same for a political party. You are the longest serving president of the Congress. You are rightly proud of having carried forward the legacy of this old party. Your family has made an enormous contribution to India. You have seen the Congress through in difficult times. I guess you love and care for this party. So, it was sensible for you and Rahul to offer to step down for the sake of the party. I do believe that, for you, party interests are higher than your own prestige. When you had declined to become prime minister, your stature went up. If you free the Congress from your family proprietorship, you will be hailed. Donít pay heed to your party stalwarts to withdraw your resignation. You should do a Mandela. Remain a mentor, an elder statesperson, and recede into the background. You can still help the party regroup, reinvent and re-energize to fight another day. Priyanka connects with the masses with ease and is media-savvy. Unfortunately, in the prevailing atmosphere, her husband is her Achillesí heel; he is readymade fodder for Modi and other detractors to attack her. Perceptions in politics matter more than reality does. Whether he can be legally prosecuted or not, perception persists that Vadra made quick money on account of his relations with your family. You canít wish it away. To people, your claim of zero tolerance of corruption sounds hollow.

Sycophants will tell you that the party will evaporate into thin air like camphor if you step aside. If the party is so weak and fragile, it should not exist. I believe it isnít. Let it grow and stand on its own feet in the rough and tumble beyond the lengthening shadows of the family. If it has the DNA to survive, it will. The same is true for Rahul.

In the 1960s, Nehru used the Kamraj plan to get rid of the old guards of the Congress. Fortunately for you, deadwoods of the Congress have already been wiped out in this election. Those who have won are those who have nurtured their constituencies and enjoy their trust. Let these brave hearts form the core to rebuild the party from the grassroots. Congressmen should forget about power for five years and connect with people in villages, kasbas, towns, cities, state capitals and their outskirts including slums on a daily basis to listen to their problems, take them up with the concerned authorities and get them redressed at the earliest. They should fight for the rights of the people and win their hearts and create a new brand equity for the Congress: Har musibat mein aapke saath, Congress ka haath. It isnít easy but it can be done. It needs selfless, dedicated, motivated, proactive workers who undertake this work with missionary zeal. Is there anyone in the Congress at the moment who can instil hope, zeal and confidence, and inspire the party to fight back? What about Jyotiraditya Scindia? He has the pedigree, experience, maturity and capability to energise and transform Congress into a fighting force. And I believe, he is still loyal to your family, so the idea shouldnít scare you. Give it a thought; it isnít as crazy as it sounds.

Surendra Kumar,

Your well-wisher.