Mr Kharge’s first task will be to reintroduce the basics of democracy in the party and the first test will be to see if he goes for CWC poll
Mallikarjun Kharge has started off as Congress president making all right noises, but the way he faces the challenges that have mounted before him over the years will decide whether he has a grasp of them.
The new Congress president has organisational and political issues to settle before he takes on the adversaries. The party has long ceased to be a democratic organisation; ad-hocism has become the rule and a coterie at the top decides matters. Elections were replaced by a culture of nomination. This has ensured that its middle and lower level leadership has little loyalty either to their bosses or the cadre. It’s a miracle that the party still commands the loyalty of its workers at the grassroots despite the deep depletion of leadership in many key states.
Mr Kharge’s first task will be to reintroduce the basics of democracy in the party and the first test will be to see if he goes for elections to the Congress Working Committee. The exclusion of Shashi Tharoor from the newly-formed 47-member steering committee is not a great omen. Mr Tharoor accorded some legitimacy to Mr Kharge’s election and managed a decent number of votes against all odds; he is no more a pushover. Mr Kharge will do well to pick the best examples of leadership from all over the world. His most important task is to keep the entire flock together in the face of relentless attack by the formidable enemy.
Mr Kharge has aligned himself with the idea of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, undertaken by former party president Rahul Gandhi when he said the party will seek to “demolish this system of lies, treachery and hatred”. Mr Gandhi has been frontal in his attacks on the RSS and the Sangh Parivar for what he says is the damage they are causing to the democratic, secular and liberal fabric of the country through their fanning of communal passions. Mr Kharge was expected to align his vocabulary with that of Mr Gandhi, and he has done so. It is a surefire way to ensure cohesion of action.
Mr Kharge has said he will follow the Udaipur Declaration and reserve 50 per cent of the party’s posts to those below 50 years of age. It’s a promise which is easier made than kept, but even an attempt to fulfil it will go a long way in attracting young blood to the party.
With 53 members in the Lok Sabha and two chief ministers, the Congress is at the lowest ebb in electoral politics; Mr Kharge may take relief from the fact that it will be hard to descend to a greater depth. Two Assembly elections this year — Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh — which traditionally are fought between the Congress and the BJP — and nine more next year — will be the real test for the Congress president. The Congress is the principal Opposition party in almost all these states, especially in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Telangana, where power is not an impossible target. The octogenarian grassroots leader has his task cut out.