Anal­y­sis Cong United on Gand­his, Di­vided on Growth Path

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - CL MANOJ

Even as the Congress brass got into a hud­dle to de­bate what went wrong in UPA’s sec­ond in­nings and how to re­po­si­tion the party, se­nior lead­ers have made one thing clear: the lead­er­ship of So­nia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi is non-ne­go­tiable. There are broadly two schools of thought among se­nior lead­ers, in­ter­ac­tions with Congress lead­ers show. While one group blames pol­icy paral­y­sis that they say wors­ened the eco­nomic slow­down and at­tracted the wrath of the mid­dle­class and youth, the other group says it was the go­ing back on wel­fare pro­grammes which led to the down­fall. The Congress Work­ing Com­mit­tee has au­tho­rised party chief So­nia Gandhi to take “all the nec­es­sary re­me­dial steps”, which sources say may prompt her to soon con­sti­tute a high-pro­file panel to for­mally an­a­lyse the rea­sons for the de­feat and pre­scribe the road-map ahead. Top lead­ers are al­ready united on de­flect­ing any blame di­rected at the Gandhi fam­ily. “Un­der So­nia Gandhi’s lead­er­ship, the Congress will move for­ward and stage a come­back,” AK Antony told a group of jour­nal­ists a few days ago, just as some sec­ond- or third-rung lead­ers in­dulged in post-de­feat rum­blings. “There is no move within the party against Rahul Gandhi. He is the one who has cam­paigned and worked hard max­i­mum for the party across the coun­try. As for the de­feat, it is a mat­ter of col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity,” the for­mer de­fence min­is­ter said.

Digvi­jaya Singh backed the view. “It is So­nia who united the Congress and led us to two con­sec­u­tive LS poll vic­to­ries,”he­said,while­assert­ing“thereis nodis­con­nect­be­tweenRahu­land­se­nior Congress lead­ers”. While the lead­ers re­view the party’s elec­tion per­for­mance, the two con- trast­ing views on what led to the de­feat are likely to be de­bated in de­tail. Some min­is­ters in the UPA-1 and UPA-2 feel that more than cor­rup­tion al l e g at i ons t hat pl a gued t he Man­mo­han Singh govern­ment and in­fla­tion, slow de­ci­sion-mak­ing on re­forms and push­ing more and more wel­farescheme­satthe­costof boost­ing growth and jobs had an­gered the mid­dle­class,as­pi­ra­tiona­ly­outhandur­ban cen­ters, some­thing that Naren­dra Modi tapped clin­i­cally. “It was the im­pres­sion that the UPA was not in tune with the new In­dia that has hurt us max­i­mum,” said a for­mer Congress min­is­ter. Man­mo­han Singh, P Chi­dambaram, Mon­tek Singh Ah­luwalia, Kapil Sibal, Murli De­ora, Ka­mal Nath and Veerappa Moily are seen in the party cir­cles as the ad­vo­cates of speedy eco­nomic re­forms. Antony, Digvi­jaya, Vay­alar Ravi, Ashok Gehlot, Tar un Go­goi, Sid­dara­ma­iah, Mal­likar­jun Kharge and Mo­han Gopal are among the lead­ers other than the two Gand­his who are per­ceived to be more propoor than pro-busi­ness. “Pay­ment un­der (em­ploy­ment guar­an­tee pro­gramme) MNREGA has been left pend­ing. The right-to­food scheme could never take off, leav­ing our tra­di­tional sup­port­ers among poor, feel­ing let down amid in­fla­tion and fre­quent hikes in diesel prices,” said a se­nior leader. So, So­nia’s speech on Jawa­har­lal Nehru’s death an­niver­sary when she as­serted the Congress’ ad­her­ence to Nehru­vian so­cial­ism, fur­ther ig­nited the in-house de­bate. She said “at the core of Nehru’s so­cial­ism was the con­vic­tion that in a land of ex­treme poverty and in­equal­ity, the ob­jec­tive of govern­ment must be the wel­fare of poor­est … To­day, we re­fer to this as in­clu­sive growth … We re­main pro­foundly wed­ded to Nehru’s con­cern for the weak­est sec­tions of our so­ci­ety.” A leader said this in­di­cated a new be gin­ning. Un­der Man­mo­han Singh, the dom­i­nant eco­nomic mantra of the govern­ment was the con­tin­u­a­tion of what star ted by Narasimha Rao, this leader said. The left-of-the-cen­tre Congress group feels that, post-de­feat, the party has no op­tion to move right. “This time, RSS pro­pelled the BJP vic­tory. Two UPA state­ments, that the first right on re­sources would be for mi­nori­ties and that the govern­ment woul d c r a c k d own o n Hin­dutva ter­ror, have made RSS go all-out against the Congress. So, the BJP vic­tory also leaves no fur­ther scope for the Congress to move right of the cen­tre,” ar­gued a leader. The BJP will treat its vic­tory, some lead­ers said, as a vic­tory of the Gu­jarat model – pro-rich and proin­dus­try and, more im­por­tantly, proHindu. There­fore party lead­ers feel the Congress may now have to po­si­tion to ap­peal to the poor and lower mid­dle­class,. cut­ting across caste

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