Breaking walls, inducting young blood

In his speech at the plenary session of the Congress, after being elected president, Rahul Gandhi has given two messages to the party. First, that he wants to break the ‘wall’ that he perceives has separated the workers from the leadership. Those familiar with the organizational functioning of the Congress know that this is true, that there is, indeed, a ‘wall’ that prevents grassroots level party workers to have direct and easy access to the High Command. Second, he has made it clear that while he will not be retiring the old guard of the party – their experience is still very valuable – he will give priority to inducting young blood and training them up to provide leadership at various levels so that there is a greater sense of identification of the workers with the party.
Ever since independence, the Congress has depended more on the spontaneous support of the people for the party that had led the struggle for freedom, rather than become a cadre-based organization. Today, its principal opponent, the BJP, is a cadre-based-party. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that it depends mainly on the cadre of the RSS. The Congress does not have, because it never thought it necessary to have, a nation-wide cadre base. The Congress Seva Dal is there but only as an ornament, to be seen only at the time of the all-India sessions or plenary sessions of the party, turning out in khadi uniform. The time has come now to transform the Seva Dal into a disciplined body working round the year, building contact with the people, carrying the message of the Congress to the people and giving ideological battle to those who preach communalism and debunk the idea of secularism.
Even if the Opposition wins the next Lok Sabha elections – and it is a big ‘if’ now – the challenges of communalism, authoritarianism and making India a Hindu Rashtra will be there – irrespective of whether the BJP wins or loses the election. Rahul Gandhi will have to think seriously whether the time has come for the Congress to have a course correction, to back to the ideals of his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru and make India a Left-of-Centre party. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru did not see the Congress merely as a machine for winning elections and ruling the country. They wanted the Congress to be an instrument of social change. The Congress, to survive and lead the people, must go back to its Nehruvian moorings.

Monday, 26 March, 2018