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  Opinion   Columnists  23 Aug 2023  Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr | Rebooting CWC: Readying Congress for battle of 2024

Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr | Rebooting CWC: Readying Congress for battle of 2024

The author is a Delhi-based commentator and analyst
Published : Aug 24, 2023, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Aug 24, 2023, 12:05 am IST

It will be wildly speculative to say whether Mr Kharge can lead Congress back to power in the 2024 Lok Sabha election?

AICC president Malikarjuna Kharge. (Image Source: AA)
 AICC president Malikarjuna Kharge. (Image Source: AA)

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge would not have drawn up the list of the reconstituted Congress Working Committee (CWC) all on his own. There must have been consultations aplenty, and choices based on cool calculation. The new committee reflects the diversity of Congress Party’s leadership, the old jostle with the new, P. Chidambaram and Digvijaya Singh rub shoulders with Shashi Tharoor and Sachin Pilot. This is the traditional Congress way, accommodating all to the extent possible,

loyalists with dissenters. There were complaints that Mr Kharge was not able to take a decision on the CWC. He took his time and made a wide selection.

It shows that the Congress Party, despite its fixation with the Nehru-Gandhi family’s leadership, and this fixation is based on calculation more than on sentiment, has proved yet again that its inner workings are quite

democratic. Each one of the CWC members has a grand view of things of his or her own. But the decisions will be made unanimously. The Kharge presidency is moving, however slowly. The Congress has never worked to a plan. It stumbles, fumbles, stutters, and drags. That is just the way how it functions. But hanging together is the issue, and they seem to be doing it well. Mr Kharge has managed to keep the flock together, as it were.

Will the new CWC work in a dynamic fashion for the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and then for the 2024 Lok Sabha election in 2024? It is unlikely to work with machine-like precision. But its presence will give enough muscle to Mallikarjun Kharge to move the Grand Old Party. There is a huge pool of experience there, and there are enough intellectual resources in the men and women of the reconstituted working committee. It will be fairly futile to look for who chose the team. Is it Mr Kharge in consultation with others? Or is it a group close to Rahul Gandhi who drew up the list and Mr Kharge had concurred? It can only be inferred that the names in the team indicate that there was quite a to and fro among those who consulted each other. It can be safely said that Mr Kharge had put the formal seal of approval on the list. Mr Kharge would be working with this diverse group, and decisions would be made after a lot of parleys. That is the way of the Congress Party.

It can also be said that Rahul Gandhi would want to leave Mr Kharge enough space to function though his clique, and there is a Rahul Gandhi clique, and there is sure to emerge -- if it has not already happened -- a Kharge clique as well, that would want to steer things in a manner it would believe will strengthen Rahul Gandhi. These inner tussles are the stuff of Congress Party’s working. The Congress cannot function like a well-oiled electoral machine in the manner of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-led BJP. While the BJP’s election victories would be the handiwork of the party workers’ hard efforts, in the case of the Congress the victory is entirely due to the tilt in the mood of the voters.

So, what is Mr Kharge or his CWC to do? They need to do the quotidian job of forming sub-committees, monitoring teams and observers in each of the states and keep the party machinery humming. It is the activity in the party that promises to keep the organisation in minds of voters. In many ways, Mr Kharge is managing to keep the party machinery humming, and this is what will make the difference.

Mr Kharge, being an old party hand, knows the secret of the life of the organisation. This should leave Rahul Gandhi time and room to make the mass contacts on the lines of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. It is a clear division of labour. Mr Kharge is also less intimidating and more accommodative with the members of “INDIA”, the newly-formed Opposition alliance.

The CWC team would have to engage in formulating a Congress plan addressing the political situation in the country, and also look at ways of strengthening the economy at the structural level.

It has also to enliven the party structures at the states’ level. The team needs to fan out across the country. And that is what Mr Kharge would be engaged in in the next few months.

Mr Kharge and the reconstituted CWC is an indication that the party means business. Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka show that the party can work its way through the Assembly elections. The party has, in a manner of speaking, entered the phase of collective leadership, formal and informal, with Mr Kharge as president. He will function along with others. There is no such thing as the Kharge way of doing things. As a man who worked his way up through the party ranks, Mr Kharge must be sure that it is the safest way of steering the party. And there would plenty of programmatic and ideological inputs from the members of the CWC. This was indeed the way when Sonia Gandhi was the leader of the party. She worked with others and even as the so-called Sonia Gandhi clique was supposed to have dominated. She saw to it that she was also listening to people outside the clique. This could be found in her handling of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, and later Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan. Even with a Nehru-Gandhi at the head of the party, the Congress has always functioned like a multi-tiered organisation. There were enough creaking noises in the party machinery, but it moved. The Congress’ weakness is that when it is holding power, it lets the party machinery go to sleep. Now that it has been out of office for a decade, the party organisation is revving up. The new CWC is a hint of that push. Mr Kharge is the kind of unassuming helmsman who will be able to carry people along.

It will be wildly speculative to say whether Mr Kharge can lead Congress back to power in the 2024 Lok Sabha election? But he is doing something that needed to be done -- keep the party in shipshape for the main battle. The BJP-NDA leaders have sensed that the revival of the Congress machinery is a clear sign that they have to take the main Opposition party much more seriously.

Tags: congress working committee (cwc), mallikarjuna kharge, 2024 lok sabha elections