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Will he, won't he?

 

Can Rahul Gandhi turn things around for the Congress with the general elections a few months away? Pramod Kumar reports
PRAMOD KUMAR | Issue Dated: December 22, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Congress | Rahul Gandhi |
 

The Congress knew things were bad but they could scarcely have divined that the poll results would turn out to be what they did; a near total rout in the four assembly constituencies. Their one silver lining came at the end, a victory in Mizoram, but that can hardly be called icing on the cake.

Post-elections, the role of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has increasingly come under the scanner. Is he fit to lead the Congress and the country? The overall consensus at the moment appears negative leaving the grand old party with little option but to go in for a bout of serious introspection, hoping it would improve things.

Nonetheless, Rahul is known to have pulled up members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) saying that issues that could have been raised by the Congress were ultimately the ones which have led to the party’s decimation in Rajasthan, Delhi and MP, with Chhattisgarh providing some grace.

The Congress party is getting round to the fact that inflation and issues that relate to the common man were overlooked. It is also now sure that if steps to push back prices are not taken and substantive steps to check corruption are not in place, Congress is looking down at the barrel of the gun in 2014. If the situation remains what it is, party leaders say they are looking at a long spell out of power.

Rahul reportedly told Union finance minister P Chidambaram that people do not understand macro or micro economics; if they have no money in their pockets, they will vote against the ruling party. He is also said to have pulled up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and members of his cabinet at a meeting saying that if there is no government left, there is little point in planning this or that. But topping Rahul’s agenda is a proposed rejig of the Congress organization, a long held wish which is yet to see the light of the day.

 

‘We are disappointed but not overwhelmed’

Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das talks about his party’s prospects. Excerpts:

Has the Congress’s arrogance cost it the elections?

It is not as if the central government has become arrogant or that it has lost touch with the common man. The economic situation has partly been influenced by the global slowdown but we here are taking steps to improve things, like get a handle on unbridled inflation.
 
The assembly elections disaster suggests that coordination between the party and the government has broken down.
We are disappointed but not overwhelmed. We have six months to work and self-introspect and improve the situation.
 
There was talk of such introspection even after the UP assembly elections defeat but at the end of the day nothing substantial came out of it.

Certainly, steps will be taken and indications to that effect have been given by Rahul himself. As far as the assembly results go, sure it is a wakeup call and the Congress will take steps to stem the rot. We will take corrective measures.

 

After Rahul’s upbraid, there is stunned silence in the North Block, the headquarters of India’s finance ministry and the Congress headquarters at 24 Akbar Road. At the finance ministry, Chidambaram and Planning Commission vice-chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia have decided to end their battle of attrition and put their heads down and work in peace. They have been joined by 10 Janpath nominee and cabinet colleague Jairam Ramesh, who is the minister in charge of overseeing development deadlines. They have a single-point agenda: get the inflation down before it is too late.

The most powerful man at the Congress headquarters, Janardan Dwivedi, also closest to the Gandhi family has publicly pulled up leaders of the Delhi Congress for ganging up against Sheila Dixit – or at best not making it things easy for her – which all point to one thing: serious organisational changes can now be expected in the Congress organization. Dwivedi told TSI that the party is taking stock of the saboteurs who have worked against interests of the Congress in the four assembly states. “We are in the process of identifying those who have played politics with the party during the elections. Strict action will be taken against those who have indulged in indiscipline,’’ he said.

According to party sources, Congress president Sonia Gandhi too is stunned and dismayed by the results. She told her close aides this week that both the organization and the government need to be toned up. She has also said that it would not be right to leave everything in the hands of Rahul alone; others too will have to take the responsibility.
Towards this end, Poojary at the Congress headquarters and Ramesh for coordinating between different government ministries have their jobs cut out. Sources say Sonia too is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the assembly elections.

But the critical question which begs an answer here is this: can Rahul turn things around now when time is so little? People say similar noises had been made in the aftermath of the UP assembly results disaster last year but despite identifying a list of all such notables and known party poppers, ultimately no action was taken against them for the fear of igniting a revolt against the party.

In the case of MP, Rahul had started well saying that only win ability should be the criterion for giving tickets to candidates. Veteran Digvijay Singh blew away this thesis at one stroke by unilaterally declaring his son a candidate from the Raghogarh constituency, showing that other than lip service, he had scant respect for the party high command.

Both in MP and Rajasthan, powerful Congress leaders merrily and without consulting anyone, awarded tickets to their kith and kin. The results are there to see. Asserts Janaradan Dwivedi: “We have six months to go for the General Elections and you will see changes in the party organization and decisions taken by the government.” Rahul also said nearly the same thing. Hope they know what they are saying.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017