OP-ED: To ensure survival, Congress needs strong power center as President

Saurav Das

The continuing crisis in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are stark realities of what is now haunting the grand old party- leadership crisis. It is hard to believe that Congress Party, which has a 134-year old history, is not able to appoint a President of its own even after Rahul Gandhi made it clear that he didn’t want to continue as the President. Gandhi made his resignation public last week. He was quick to change his Twitter bio as well, hinting that he does not intend to take a U-turn anytime soon.

Senior Congress Leader Karan Singh even expressed his dismay at how things have continued in the party after Gandhi left. He even went on to say that the party has wasted one-month pleading with Gandhi to return and something needs to be done urgently else BJP’s ‘Congress-Mukt Bharat’ will become a reality.

Congress has lost many capable leaders over the years and seems to be in a state of helplessness without the dynasty at the top. Gandhi had made it clear that no one from the Gandhi family will be made the President and neither will they participate in the selection process, sending out a signal that the new President should not be viewed as a Gandhi puppet.

So what can the party do? Senior leaders of the party are desperate to avoid party elections. They want a sort of presidium of five to six leaders to form a committee and run the Congress. Not even one single leader of the party has shown any ambition for the top post. In absence of any such leaders, Delhi-based old-guard’s attempts to find a consensus candidate, perhaps someone from its own fold were stonewalled by plain-speaking Punjab CM Amarinder Singh who made it clear that the President should be someone who is a young and dynamic leader. Perhaps, Amarinder Singh is right. What the Congress needs now is a dynamic youth leader who is empowered to take decisions on his own, instead of going for compromises like working presidents and heads of geographical zones which will lead to parallel centres of power and lead to more confusion. Other leaders say that if the presidium system is created, it will be useless because it will be ‘toothless’. The Gandhi family should also be careful not to undermine the new leadership that ultimately emerges.

Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot is said to be a contender for Rahul’s replacement but senior leaders of the party are not too keen to place power in the hands of a young and ambitious leader who is perceived to be his own man. Pilot would like his rival Ashok Gehlot, CM of Rajasthan to take over the post so that he finally gets his dream job. But that is unlikely to happen.

The situation is turning increasingly fraught for the Congress in many states and it cannot waste any more time roaming around headless. BJP’s dream of ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ may finally be the result of that, which is not the best outcome for India. Regardless of who is in power, it is important and absolutely necessary that a strong national opposition is in place to keep the Government of the day on its toes; else one party’s supremacy will settle India into complacency and economic stagnation.

(The author of this article, Saurav Das, is an RTI Activist and Freelance Journalist)

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