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MCD Election 2017: Congress' over reliance on failings of BJP instead of forcing change will prove costly

The candidates for all 272 seats of MCD have been announced and Congress party true to its style is facing dissent. Party veterans are not happy with ticket distribution. Dr AK Walia, senior member of party, and cabinet minister in Shiela Dixit government, has resigned alleging sale of tickets.

Another ex-MLA, Amrish Gupta has joined BJP. Shiela Dixit who was chief minister of the state for 15 years is not being consulted. The rift between Arvinder Singh Lovely and Ajay Maken is no secret. Some workers allege Maken is out to finish off the party.

In MCD by-polls held in May 2016, Congress won 4 out of 13 seats and recorded 24.9 percent (+15 percent) vote share, showing signs of some revival. This was a much improved performance since it got reduced to less than 10 percent vote share in 2015.

Any weakening of AAP is most likely to benefit Congress as can be seen from graph above. The reason is that the anchor vote segments of AAP-Congress are complementary. AAP has built up on Congress voters comprising of poor, downtrodden, minorities and Dalits. However, infighting could damage its prospects in MCD elections.

One could argue that ticket distribution always leads to some sort of dissatisfaction in camps across parties and we should not blow this out of proportion. BJP also faced severe dissent in UP, when it gave many tickets to outsiders. However, the problem with Congress is ‘big and different’. The key issue is lack of communication. Everybody’s knows Rahul Gandhi is not a great communicator. Himanta Biswa Sarma’s story of how Rahul was not even listening to what he was saying in a meeting and playing with his dog is quite famous now.  In the Congress party, communication flows from the top (Congress Working Committee — CWC) to the bottom (workers). It’s not a two-way process. CWC, the highest decision making body, is full of people who are Gandhi loyalists. Many of them are retired politicians (RK Dhawan, Fotedar etc) and sycophants. Most of the members are so called “backroom politicians” with no mass base (only 7 percent members are from Lok Sabha). The average age of CWC members is 70, when 65 percent of population in India is below 35 years of age.

The CWC members are not in sync with the aspirations of new India. Many of them would not even remember when was the last time they fought in elections. The Gandhi family rarely faces a challenge and hence Rahul is able to get things done according to his whims and fancies.

In Uttar Pradesh, an alliance with Samajwadi Party was thrust on workers sitting in AC rooms in Delhi. They were not even consulted. The result was pathetic. Congress could win only 7 seats and garner 6.2 percent vote share. This, even after an alliance? Congress may have got these many seats had it contested alone.

In Punjab, despite a call by workers to name Amarinder Singh as chief minister candidate for months, Rahul sat on the decision and made this announcement only one week before polling day. Luckily it didn’t have an adverse impact and Congress won Punjab.

A true leader is one who empowers others. In Goa, Congress emerged as the single largest party with a good shot at government formation. Digvijay Singh rushed to the spot but he is powerless. He can’t take any decisions without an approval from Rahul. So he kept on sending proposals to Rahul, who took his own sweet time to decide. This entire submission and approval process cost Congress the state.

After results to five states were declared, Rahul should have led from the front and held a press conference, but he shied away. His partner in UP, Akhilesh held a conference. This is just an example as Rahul has on earlier occasions been out of country at a time when the Parliament is discussing crucial bills. Decisive decision making is another issue within Congress party. Sonia has announced that Rahul will be the new president. However, Rahul has indicated that he is not yet ready. This dilly dallying for the past few years is not helping the party. It doesn’t only leave party workers but also confuses voters.

The Congress needs to get its act together else it runs the risk of massive exodus. It needs to retain talent. The first step is to restructure the CWC. Dead wood needs to be removed. Young faces like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Murli Deora, Manish Tewari, Kapil Sibal, Jitin Prasad etc need to be inducted. Chief ministers of states where Congress is in power need to be drafted in as well as members or permanent invitees. A few non-Gandhi family members need to be made vice-presidents to send out a message.

The urgency and desire to make a come-back is missing from Congress. It is banking on the fact that some magic like 2004 may happen. So instead of trying to force a change, it is purely relying on blunders by the Modi government and the time factor as it is now eyeing for 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

It’s very clear that the party fortunes are in doldrums in Delhi and nationally. It does not have a single MLA in Delhi assembly. It has 78 councilors in the outgoing municipality. With AAP now in fray, the party could struggle to maintain its tally. Unless it gets its act together, 'Congress mukt' Delhi, will be a reality.

The author is an independent political commentator and co-author of e-book ‘Battle of Bihar’. Views expressed are his own. He can be reached @politicalbaaba.

Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 12:41 PM

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