Pre­dictable Drama Un­folds at CWC Meet Ni­tish Names Ji­tan Man­jhi New Bi­har CM

Congress’ top de­ci­sion-mak­ing body re­jects of­fers by So­nia and Rahul Gandhi to step down in the wake of poll white­wash

The Economic Times - - Front Page -

The Congress Work­ing Com­mit­tee, the party’s apex de­ci­sion-mak­ing body, which met for the first time on Mon­day af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing de­feat in the re­cent Lok Sabha elec­tions, ended pre­dictably with mem­bers re­fus­ing to coun­te­nance a party with­out a mem­ber of the NehruGandhi fam­ily at the helm.

At the end of a meet­ing that lasted nearly three hours, CWC passed a unan­i­mous res­o­lu­tion “ex­press­ing to­tal faith” in the lead­er­ship of the Gand­his and “au­tho­rised” Congress Pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi “to take what­ever steps nec­es­sary in or­der to re­vamp the party or­gan­i­sa­tion at all lev­els”.

Both So­nia Gandhi and her son, vi­cepres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, of­fered to re­sign for the party’s dis­mal show­ing. “Both So­nia and Rahul of­fered to re­sign but CWC re­jected it unan­i­mously,” said Amarinder Singh, mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from Am­rit­sar. Ji­tan Ram Man­jhi, the SC/ ST wel­fare min­is­ter in the out­go­ing JD(U) govern­ment, will be the new chief min­is­ter of Bi­har re­plac­ing Ni­tish Ku­mar, who had quit own­ing moral re­spon­si­bil­ity for the party’s de­ba­cle in the Lok Sabha elec­tions.

Mem­bers of CWC, not only de­clined to ac­cept the res­ig­na­tions of So­nia and Rahul Gandhi, but also re­fused any dis­cus­sion on the mat­ter. “I be­lieve I have not been able to bring about the nec­es­sary changes to strengthen the party. There­fore, I take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for this crush­ing de­feat and I am pre­pared to re­lin­quish my po­si­tion,” So­nia told the CWC mem­bers. Brief­ing re­porters af­ter the meet­ing, gen­eral sec­re­tary Ja­nard­han Dwivedi said, “Rahul said the party lacks the kind of ac­count­abil­ity that is needed, and that he could make a start by ten­der­ing his res­ig­na­tion. He said that prob­a­bly he could not live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions the party had from him.” Though never de­clared as the party’s prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date, at its meet­ing in Jan­uary the Congress Work­ing Com­mit­tee had asked Rahul to lead the party’s cam­paign in the 2014 elec­tions. The re­spon­si­bil­ity for the drub­bing, the 38-mem­ber de­ci­sion­mak­ing body re­solved, must be shared by “both the govern­ment and the party”. Out­go­ing Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh, who is also a CWC mem­ber, stepped in to take re­spon­si­bil­ity sug­gest­ing that the govern­ment’s in­abil­ity to rein in prices and tackle cor­rup­tion con­trib­uted to the party’s de­ba­cle. Singh stressed that lit­tle would be achieved by res­ig­na­tions and as- sign­ing blame. “Man­mo­han Singh said he takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­ad­e­qua­cies of the govern­ment. He told the Congress pres­i­dent and vi­cepres­i­dent that their res­ig­na­tion was not the so­lu­tion to the prob­lems faced by Congress,” Dwivedi said in his press brief­ing. The CWC res­o­lu­tion pledged to the mil­lions of Congress work­ers that it will cre­ate within the party op­por­tu­ni­ties and struc­tures that will pave the way for a “thor­ough re­vamp of the or­gan­i­sa­tion at all lev­els”. “Ac­count­abil­ity has been talked about. Wait for the re­or­gan­i­sa­tion,” the gen­eral sec­re­tary said. The res­o­lu­tion also hinted at ma­jor changes at all lev­els of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and in Congress-ruled states. “Cor­rec­tive mea­sures must be taken at the level of the party and at the level of state gov­ern­ments formed by Congress,” it said. Dur­ing the dis­cus­sions, as many as 29 mem­bers, in­clud­ing Ajit Jogi, Ghu­lam Nabi Azad and Anil Shas­tri, spoke on the party’s short­com­ings. They of­fered sug­ges­tions while care­fully sidestep­ping any men­tion of Rahul Gandhi’s style of func­tion­ing and the work­ing of his team, all of which has been crit­i­cised by party lead­ers in pri­vate. Leading the in­tro­spec­tion, So­nia Gandhi said, “We should also ask our­selves, have we failed, both as govern­ment and party, to com­mu­ni­cate our achieve­ments? ... It is vi­tal that we ask these ques­tions and more at ev­ery level...What we need is a clear-headed and fresh think­ing that will help us cor­rect our short­com­ings.”

In­di­cat­ing ma­jor changes, she said that “most of all, what we need for our party is to ac­cept that un­less we un­der­take some struc­tural changes, we will not be able to meet the se­ri­ous chal­lenges we face”.

Some CWC mem­bers did raise the is­sue of in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity of many AICC func­tionar­ies and union min­is­ters, which they felt added to the party’s dis­con­nect with the people. Sources said at least two CWC mem­bers pointed out that the col­lec­tive lead­er­ship failed to counter BJP’s bid to project “Congress as a party that ap­peases only Mus­lims in the name of sec­u­lar­ism”. Tak­ing a cue from the party pres­i­dent, the mem­bers ex­pressed con­cern over “nev­erseen-be­fore po­lar­i­sa­tion on com­mu­nal lines” dur­ing the elec­tions. “I also be­lieve the mes­sage of Congress was lost in the din and dust raised by an ag­gres­sive and po­lar­is­ing cam­paign by our op­po­nents, which was backed by un­lim­ited re­sources and a hos­tile me­dia,” So­nia Gandhi said.

The party’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy faced se­vere crit­i­cism. Sources in­di­cated that sev­eral gen­eral sec­re­taries of­fered to step down from their posts giv­ing the party lead­er­ship a free hand in the re­or­gan­i­sa­tion ef­forts.

The role of a “hos­tile me­dia” also came in for a scru­tiny at the meet with most lead­ers feel­ing that there was a slant in gen­eral reporting in favour of BJP.

UN­DER PRES­SURE: Rahul and So­nia

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