Monday, 30th October 2017

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Congress fog spreads to Jharkhand

The dominant view within Indian National Congress is that Sonia’s leadership is a 'stopgap arrangement'

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 3.12.19, 2:15 AM
  • Updated 3.12.19, 2:15 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Although Rahul Gandhi did campaign in Jharkhand on Monday, party seniors said the overall level of preparedness and intensity was unsatisfactory (PTI)

The Congress’s lacklustre campaign in Jharkhand shows the party has learnt no lessons from Maharashtra, and the dominant view within is that “the confusion at the top” continues to cast a shadow over the revival process.

Although Rahul Gandhi did campaign in Jharkhand on Monday, party seniors said the overall level of preparedness and intensity was unsatisfactory.

They contended the party’s attitude had not changed despite the shot in the arm provided by Maharashtra and Haryana, where the BJP juggernaut got derailed despite the Congress central leadership’s lack of interest in the campaigns.

While Congress politicians in Jharkhand complain of an absence of support from the high command — virtually a repeat of the Maharashtra story — many senior leaders in Delhi allege the party has not involved them in the electoral process at all.

“The main reason for this miserable state of affairs is confusion over the leadership. We all know that Sonia Gandhi is not going to continue for too long. The question on everybody’s mind is whether Rahul Gandhi will return,” a senior politician told The Telegraph.

Another senior hinted at a renewed generational tussle in the party. “The disconnect is not only with the masses; the disconnect within the party is shocking. There’s no collective effort, no central command trying to marshal all resources to win elections.”

“We saw some coordination recently to ensure that the December 14 rally on (Delhi’s) Ramlila grounds is a success, but there’s no such interest in elections. It’s a misconception that the Maharashtra turnaround has injected fresh life into the Congress machinery. The workers are enthusiastic but there’s no plan of action to channel that energy.”

The dominant view within the party is that Sonia’s leadership is a “stopgap arrangement” and it has stalled the much-needed restructuring Rahul had suggested after the defeat in the general election.

Party seniors say an effective command can be developed only with the arrival of a leader with a long-term plan. Most of them feel the situation can only get worse if Rahul refuses to return to the top job.

However, fears of drastic changes if Rahul returns may prompt some in the party to create hurdles before him.

Although the seniors admit that Rahul has improved vastly as a leader and built a formidable challenge to Narendra Modi — which the results did not reflect because of various factors — they remain concerned about his choice of functionaries.

Many of them object particularly to Rahul’s “over-reliance” on K.C. Venugopal, who was given the key post of general secretary in charge of organisation after the veteran Ashok Gehlot became chief minister of Rajasthan.

“Venugopal barely knows the Congress organisation but was appointed chairperson of all the state steering committees that chose candidates for the last Lok Sabha elections. We don’t know of anyone else in the Congress who was given that kind of importance --- not even the veterans who knew the party inside out.”

Rahul has been criticised in the past for investing heavily in office-bearers such as Madhusudan Mistry, Mohan Prakash and C.P. Joshi who were widely viewed as incompetent. They were eventually removed after prolonged and open opposition from senior leaders and party workers.

Some in the Congress blame Venugopal for the poor Assembly election campaigns and say he has neither the stature nor the vision to handle big assignments.

Many party insiders, informed by their “own sources”, say the BJP would not gain a majority in Jharkhand and that proper election management and the selection of the right candidates by the Congress and the JMM could have pushed the ruling party out of the frame.

But, they rue, the party has left everything to state minder R.P.N. Singh instead of mounting a collective effort. Most party seniors on Monday expressed ignorance about the electoral process in the state.

One MP summed up the mood, saying: “Are we too fighting (the Jharkhand polls)?”