Many political pundits have already pronounced their verdict that he would be punished and perhaps even axed from the government for his sudden outburst. A few others are whispering that Khurshid’s direct attack was as a part of the bigger plan to discredit the Prime minister and orchestrate enough support for Rahul Gandhi to take over the mantle from Dr Singh who is approaching 80 years now.
But why so much hue and cry over this ? Hasn’t Salman Khurshid said the obvious ? Hasn’t he been bold enough to admit that the Congress party was indeed suffering from catharsis and had lost sense of direction at various levels? Shouldn’t this be taken as a signal to do serious soul searching by the Congress leadership in the light of its humiliating defeats in assembly polls and start preparing afresh for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from now itself?
To be fair to him, Salman Khurshid has been one of the most affable, erudite and sensible Congress leader in the Congress party and he has rarely jumped the gun. Barring a few aberrations on a few occasions, he has, by and large, been the trusted soldier of the party and played various roles at different times both in Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre. Just because his wife contested from Farukhabad and lost assembly elections, should not go against him as the villain .
I have fought with him at intellectual level in many seminars and openly registered my protests and disagreements on a few issues. Yet I strongly believe that he made a lot of sense and publicly spoke and admitted a few things with regard to the Congress party and government which could be overheard as whispers in the corridors of power or at AICC among senior party functionaries.
A cursory look at his statement bring out at least seven points which the Congress needs to look into and do serious soul searching .
1. Rahul Gandhi has been almost 8 years old in Congress party and he has virtually had everything at his command and yet he did not take the plunge head on to transform the image and credibility of the Congress party. He began with the idea of democratizing elections of the Youth Congress from Punjab and the media lapped it up as a great phenomenon but at the end, it was the same Bitto Singh (grandson of former Punjab Chief minister Byant Singh) who got elected. The same thing happened in a few other States as well. Even today, team Rahul (as they say) gives more emphasis and importance to orientation and interviews than the natural leadership qualities in the youth. No wonder then that those elected Youth Congress President like Krishna Byre Gowda or any other leader hardly cut any ice at the local level and fail to galvanize the party cadre at the youth level. Instead of harnessing natural talent in those young party leaders who have the ability to command and control the party workers and translate the same into electoral strength, team Rahul’s emphasis has been more on the techno savvy youth leaders who may have no link and influence at the grass root level. That is the reason why many candidates from Youth Congress backed by team Rahul in recent Assembly polls had to bite the dust.
2.Results of last two state Assembly polls in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have been a howler for Rahul Gandhi and his team. In Bihar Assembly polls, the Congress party could secure only 4 out 243 seats and the Congress candidates lost their deposits in 7 out of 9 place where Rahul Gandhi campaigned. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh elections of February this year became a prestige point for the Gandhi family in general and Rahul Gandhi in particular. The Congress could win only 28 seats out of the total of 403 and the party nominees lost in 90 percent assembly segments in Amethi, Sultanpur and Rae Barely. This was in stark contrast with Akhilesh Yadav who finally became the youngest Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
3.Salman khurshid’s statement about the absence of any grand announcement from Rahul Gandhi also holds water because more than the AAM AADMI, Congress workers are themselves confused about what exactly he has been trying to do. Indira Gandhi gave the slogan Garibi Hatao whereas Rajiv Gandhi’s emphasis on scientific temper, the use of computers and technology missions connected them to millions of the people across the country. But Rahul Gandhi’s love for the tribals and eating into their houses and staying overnight appears to have made him more like a butt of joke than otherwise.
4.The fact is that not only team Rahul has been far from successful in creating that kind of actual democratization in the elections of party office bearers, there is very little to suggest that the Congress leadership is trying hard enough to evolve a new set of action plan which should be identified at national level along with Rahul Gandhi. On the contrary, the Congress leadership is still depending a lot on the legacy of Pandit Nehru and Indira and Rajiv Gandhi even as the present set of ground realities are radically different and frankly, I has no clue on what issues the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 should and would be fought .
5.Khurshid is also equally candid about his dismay about the refusal of Rahul Gandhi to take the mantle of the party. In fact, he was only lending voice to the growing chorus within the party on the precise reasons for his indecisiveness and refusal to accept a functional responsibility. Late Rajiv Gandhi had become the Prime Minister when he was hardly 41 years and yet he left an indelible mark on the sands of time as India’s youngest Prime Minister. Obviously, such a long process of wait and watch would fuel rumors and speculations of various kinds.
6. Rahul Gandhi’s detractors have already started poking fun at him by saying that he was not a Prime ministerial material and so on and under these circumstances, he should have proved them wrong at least by taking charge of the party as its working president and showed his mantle by re-drafting and re-organizing the party apparatus in the light of forthcoming assembly polls in various states during 2012 and 2013. But no such signs are visible as of now.
7.Isnt it true that the Congress party has been functioning in auto-pilot mode for last few years now? The AICC still has the same set of General Secretaries and Secretaries despite numerous debacles. Bihar assembly polls got over way back in November 201 and yet BPCC has not been re-organized. Mehboob Ali Kaiser still remains the BPCC President even if he offered to resign from the post. The same is the case with UPCC and Punjab. Goa polls was an equally huge political disaster and yet the same team of Subhash Shirdokar and Jagmeet Singh Brar continues. Many more such examples could be cited.
What Khurshid could not say in so many words but just gave a veiled hint was that the Congress leadership at the moment is being run by a coterie and the same sets of people keep getting shifted from one to other posts at intervals.
He could also not say that the Congress party had almost run out of leaders at State levels with grass root support and only those who were prepared to obey the “diktat’ had been places at sensitive posts. Obviously, the support base of the Congress party was shrinking with every passing day and local and regional outfits had started spreading their fangs.
Khurshid later clarified that the media had twisted his remark about the Prime Minister. He heaped praise on Dr Manmohan Singh in a televised interaction with media later. However, his remark that “ In UPA II, governance and politics have all got intermingled. The political props have got mixed up. It’s a scattered situation” is as true as was the day before. In fact, he was only indirectly endorsing the allegation by some western commentators that “Dr Singh was the prime minister without authority and Mrs Gandhi was the party President without responsibility”.
How ironical that the man who was known as the father of economic reforms in 1991 under the premiership of PV Narasimha Rao has been called ‘ Sikhandi “and under achiever” !
How ironical that Dr Manmohan Singh whose foreign policy initiatives have been put at par with Pandit Nehru because of his bold initiatives at bilateral and multi-lateral level on global platforms, finds himself at the receiving end from various ends because the Mango Man( AAM AADMI ) finds himself hapless with the sky rocketing price of food, petrol and essential commodities.
How ironical that “Mr Clean”( Dr Manmohan Singh) has fast started losing his “spark and sheen “ because of the omissions and commissions of his few ministers and party colleagues, thanks to a series of scams and allegations which have been hitting headlines with alarming regularity!
The biggest challenge before the UPA II government has been its image which appears to have been sullied and it would require a herculean effort to repair and re-boot. Global economic slow down and Euro zone crisis could have been an alibi for many economists and advisors. But then, India can not go on looking towards US and EU spin Doctors to suggest medicines for its own ills.
As Khurshid said” its is not only economic reforms that have slowed down. Even political and administrative reforms have not happened because of this situation”
This should indeed sound as a warning bell to all those who are a part of this dispensation and the Congress party would continue to get pilloried until it comes out with a set of credible action plan to stem the rot in all these areas. It remains to be seen if the Prime minister and Congress President would take those broader hints seriously and initiate the process of clean up those virus eating into the vitals of the governance and the party and opt for a re-boot.