What ails the Congress? The list is too long, and the problems all too familiar

By Mohammed Zubeer Ahmed for Twocircles.net

In the past few decades, the grand old party of India, Indian National Congress has been losing its ground among the people across the country. In the last four years, the demise has been on a rapid trajectory. It has been losing elections after elections, that to on a large scale. In the same period, BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi has scripted the decisive victories. It is said the BJP could achieve these successive electoral triumph’s based on the communicative leadership quality of Modi, organisational setup for BJP, a constant spread of developmental narrative, religious and cast polarisation and promotion of jingoistic nationalism. Among these all, the organisational setup had played the major role in all the victories.

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The party president of BJP, Amit Shah, who is considered to be the right-hand of Modi, has acted as the linchpin of the organisation, he has been effectively using the organisational setup of RSS and the party. Through this mechanism, the party president is ensuring the flooding of information of hope and vilification of opposition parties, with the help of all kinds of medias, that too on a regular basis. With a shot in the arm of electoral successes and recognition by the superiors, RSS and the party workers are found putting extra effort and are found reaching out to the voters. As Modi is always in a campaign mode, hence, he leaves no stone unturned to target the opposition parties in his speeches. That provides ample amount of campaign material for the party workers. In today’s world of social media, the regular dosage of positive information seems to be working in building a narrative, in favour of a leader or a party. Being active on those platforms, Modi and his party are reaping the benefits.

Contrary to this, the Congress party lacks the support of devoted cadre like that of RSS. It has a momentary organisational set-up, which gets operationalised only at the time of elections. Unlike Modi, Rahul Gandhi is not gifted with oratory skills, to single-handedly communicate with the masses. So far, the young leaders in Congress party have also not made a credible effort in filling this gap. With the changing times, the parties are expected to make the changes in their strategies for communicating with the voters and fighting elections. Surprisingly, the Congress is engrossed in old-style politics. It has a slender presence on social media platforms. As a principle opposition party, it is expected to act as an opposition on the streets, garner the support of the public and galvanise the lower level cadre of the party. Instead, its opposition is seen only in the parliament, under the glare of electronic media. Which in no way benefiting the party because its message is not getting conveyed to the public. Rather, the message of disruptive politics is going loud and clear to the public.

Thus, to arrest the sliding of Congress party, serious reforms are needed in its functioning. This should begin with the total overhaul of organisational setup, from Rahul Gandhi to ward-level committees. Similarly, round the clock cyber cells should be activated, in the length and breadth of the party. And on a regular basis, these cells should be fed with campaign material, which helps in rejuvenating the party workers, and it may assist in building a simplified narrative, to be communicated to the general public. The local leaders in the organisation should be empowered, and through them, the organisation should be strengthened. The younger crop of leaders should be asked to shoulder the mantle of party responsibility. The Congress should concentrate more in highlighting the local issues because the national issues have been successfully appropriated by BJP, on the plank of nationalism. And it is a daunting task to build a convincing alternative narrative to nationalism.

Many of these suggestions for Congress party are not new, From time to time, they have been part of basic observations made by several political analysts. Various news reports suggest these issues were also deliberated upon in the closed-door performance appraisal meetings. Pole strategist, Prashant Kishore is roped-in to effect some of these changes in the party. Which is not an end in itself because Prashant Kishore has only a supporting role to play in the organisation. The onus of mobilising the public, stimulating the energy of workers and strengthening of organisational setup totally rests on the shoulders of party leadership of all levels. It is the high time for the leaders of Congress party to wake up, otherwise, in the coming years the maker of the modern history of India, may become a relic of illustrious past.

The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi.