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Congress at 135: Crisis of confidence in the grand old party

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Venkat Parsa The Congress, which completes 135 years on its Foundation Day on December 28, 2020, finds itself in a bind, like never before in its long, chequered history. With two successive defeats in the parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2019, besides losing power in several states and repeated electoral shocks at various levels, the Congress has been badly battered and bruised.
It is faced with a crisis of confidence, which is of its own creation. The party leaders have snapped the connect both with the party workers and the people, at large, which has resulted in the shrinking of the popular base. Unless and until the leaders reconnect with the party cadres and the people, it would be difficult for the party to bounce back on to the national political centre stage.
The Congress leaders depend on the charisma of the Congress First Family, abdicating their own responsibility to nurture the popular base of the party. It is humanly impossible for one person to act as vote-getter, while the rest of the leaders would only love to party.
During the Freedom Struggle, Gandhiji could not have done a one-man show. He was ably assisted by people who had worked on the ground. Babu Rajendra Prasad worked in Champaran. Sardar Patel worked in Bardoli Satyagraha. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru went around into the far-flung villages, explaining to the people the meaning of concepts and values to achieve mass mobilization. Subhash Chandra Bose worked in Bengal. Gandhiji had an army of leaders who willingly worked on the ground.
In 1977, after the Congress lost power for the first at the Centre since Independence in 1947, Indira Gandhi lamented how the Congress leaders tried to “sell” her by extensively using her photos in the party election posters. No Congress leader then worth the name was seen working for the party. Typical of some of the Congress leaders is that they do not even believe in Congress ideology, as they are in the party only because it is in power.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi once stipulated during the tenure in office of the Congress-led UPA government from 2004-2014 that during their visits to the states, all union ministers belonging to the Congress should visit the Pradesh Congress Committee office and interact with the party workers. This was honoured more in breach, than in practice.

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