More Cong voices speak up: Time to weed out Rahul's coterie
Will the Congress react to criticism from within the party by welcome dissent and debate or will it weed out those who reject sycophancy? That will define the party's future.
New Delhi: It was only a matter of time before the silence in the Congress gave way to the storm. After two days of complete silence since both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi offered to resign at the CWC on May 19, the hard-hitting and honest comments of Milind Deora, former MP and member of Rahul Gandhi’s youth brigade, have brought into the open the fissures within the Rahul’s team itself. There have been stray remarks on the role of the Congress vice-president’s coterie earlier, but no prominent member had spoken out in this fashion.
Who are these people who have left many Congress leaders upset? They are considered key advisors of Rahul Gandhi, people who ran the Congress war room. They include Madhusudan Mistry, Jairam Ramesh, Ajay Maken (media in-charge), Kanishka Singh, Mohan Gopal and Sachin Rao. The last two form the immediate team of Rahul. However, leaders are afraid of naming them as they are not sure how the party high command will react. Milind himself is considered very close to the Gandhi scion and is one of the few who enjoys a good rapport with Rahul. Despite the proximity, he felt that the leadership could do with some genuine feedback from the ground. His colleague and former MP from Mumbai, Priya Dutt, also had similar views on the disconnect between the party and the people.
In an interview to a newspaper, Deora put the blame fair and square on a coterie within the Congress that indulges in armchair politics within the organisation. He said: “They were in charge of important departments and held key positions. This whole group of people did not listen to what party cadres and MPs were saying." It is obvious that he meant that this group was so powerful that even the likes of him could not bypass it to have their voice heard.
Milind is not the first to talk about it. Some other leaders tried to raise the issue but were not taken seriously. Even before the election campaign started, a few voices could be heard saying the high command was not keen to hear feedback that didn’t suit the key advisers. One such example is of senior leader Jagdambika Pal leaving the party just days before the campaign took off. “It was not just his team, but Rahul Gandhi also is to blame. How can you not meet your own party MPs, how else will you get feedback on what’s happening on the ground?” he had said. He switched sides to the BJP and is back in Parliament unlike most of his former colleagues.
Firstpost had reported that many senior leaders wanted to raise the issue of disconnect between party and workers, this was sidelined after the Congress president and vice-president offered their resignations. It turned the CWC into an emotional get-together rather than the highest decision-making body of a party than needs urgent decisions.
In contrast, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party cracked the whip by dissolving all organisational units of the party. Even the Samajwadi Party sacked 36 leaders who enjoyed Minister of State (MoS) status in UP and then also dissolved the state unit of the party.
The Congress still remains in limbo, the CWC decided to let Sonia Gandhi do all the deciding for them. The delay not only harms the party’s image as one of not being able to learn the lessons of “connecting” with the common man, but it has also sent a distress signal amongst its supporters.
One could see all senior leaders defending the party after Milind’s outburst, though Satyavrat Chaturvedi did indicate that the young Deora had a point. “He’s raising issues that need to be discussed and quick decisions need to be taken. But he should have raised them within party forum rather than go public,” he said. Milind went on to justify his comments by using the micro blogging site Twitter. “My comments are out of emotions of deep loyalty to the party, pain of our performance and a sincere desire to see us bounce back. Nothing more,” he posted. Even though everyone knows which doorstep to lay the blame on in the party, nobody is willing to do so. The frustration is growing by the day within the party, but the leadership seems to be taking its own sweet time in taking any decision.
For whatever it is worth, Rahul and Priyanka did visit Amethi this Wednesday where 65 houses were gutted in a fire in Mauja Baraulia village. There was also a rare instance of Rahul being seen at the party headquarters on Thursday, where he did meet a few leaders. The offices of the party president and vice president remain sanitised and locked most of the time. Perhaps the onus is now on the Gandhis on whether they want to stick to the age old formula of forming committees by trusted lieutenants or asking Rahul to do a reality check and weed out these unelected members from his coterie.
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