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HT EDIT-Congress: The bid for revival Instead of emulating the BJP, it must play to its own strengths

September 11, 2019 05:29 AM


Congress: The bid for revival
Instead of emulating the BJP, it must play to its own strengths
Four months after its defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress is struggling to find a pathway for revival. Its latest plan is to have preraks, as reported by the Hindustan Times on Tuesday, to motivate its workers. This is to be on the lines of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s model of pracharaks. Attractive as it may seem, the Congress’ problems cannot be addressed by emulating the RSS model.

The Congress indeed has an organisational problem. If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) relies on a cadre-based structure, the Congress has a mass-based model. To now convert the party into a cadre-based outfit will take resources; full-time, ideologically committed workers; and time. This does not appear feasible. Organisational reforms, which take into account the party’s specific nature, would work better. The Congress also faces a leadership crisis. It is riven by factionalism. Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as party president, the long delay in appointing a successor, and Sonia Gandhi’s return as interim chief, have not inspired confidence. It is ideologically confused. The party dabbled with a watered-down version of Hindutva, but this did not work in the face of the BJP’s more muscular version. In its economic worldview, it struggles to find the balance between market economics and welfare. The party has also been unable to stitch up social alliances, and get its caste arithmetic right. Its position on alliances also shifts, from wanting to lead a front of the Opposition to a desire to go it alone.

The Congress remains India’s leading Opposition force, and won 120 million votes in the parliamentary election. It still has a significant national presence, is a recognised brand, and is strong in pockets, especially in the South. In a diverse society, the Congress’s loose but also more pluralist ideology is appealing to many. It has a talented second-rung leadership that has not got its due, thanks to an entrenched old guard. The Congress should focus on these issues — leadership, ideological clarity, social coalitions, and organisational reforms based on its own history — instead of trying to emulate a monolithic RSS model

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