One wonders if Television has altogether destroyed political thinking. Apart from getting TV sound bytes there seems to be no urge among politicians. The recent by-election reverses of the BJP ought to have galvanized Congress leaders into meaningful action to consolidate opposition parties and create a credible alternative. There seems to be total paralysis. In the Congress party the debate revolves around whether the dynasty which leads it should at all be disturbed. Never has the state of the opposition been more pathetic. However a slight churning within the Congress does offer a small glimmer of hope.
The Congress High Command ordered its members to refrain from addressing the media. Mr. Ajay Maken, a close confidant of Mr. Rahul Gandhi and in charge of the party’s media group tweeted: “Only the spokespersons as in the linked list are authorized to speak on behalf of the party.” He listed the 18 designated spokespersons of the party. Surprisingly, for once the worms seem to have turned. Two of the most frequent commentators on TV reflecting the views of the Congress, Mr. Manish Tewari and Mr. Rashid Alvi openly defied the gag order. Mr. Alvi said “I feel it is my responsibility as this is a very crucial time as the communal forces have not only taken over the country but are spreading communalism.” Mr. Tewari said: “I ceased to be national spokesperson of the INC in Oct 2012. When I intervene in the public discourse I do as an ordinary Cong worker who has served the party for 34 yrs. There are certain core convictions I believe in.”
Indeed one is puzzled why the gag order was issued unless Mr. Rahul Gandhi wants merely to emulate the style of Mr. Narendra Modi. It is perfectly all right for members of any democratic party to question and debate, but not oppose, party policies. Defiance can be countered by suitable disciplinary action. However while the faint sign of spirit shown by Mr. Tewari and Mr. Alvi is welcome, it is not enough. Much more than voicing individual comments is required.
The by-elections have provided the Congress with a golden opportunity to reinvent itself and revive as a credible party. This writer had considered that possibility to have vanished. Fate has handed the Congress one more chance. Reinvention implies a basic reappraisal of Congress history, of its past errors, for the need to undo them and the means to achieve this. It matters little whether Mrs. Sonia Gandhi leads the party or not. What matters is whether the party constitution and organizational structure are compatible with a changed federal India. What matters is whether the Congress can assimilate regional parties. What matters is whether measures required for ushering systemic change of governance and political culture are identified through discussion. What matters most of all is whether the party can forget elections for a time and launch a nationwide movement to mobilize the public for supporting systemic change. Is the Congress up to it?