WhatsApp Image 2018-08-20 at 11.37.47 AMThe 84th All India Congress Committee Plenary Session concluded on 18 March amid chants of ‘Rahul will hoist the flag from Red Fort in 2019’. Rahul Gandhi made a fiery speech attacking the BJP and taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly. Social media is abuzz, declaring it as Rahul’s best speech yet, and announcing his arrival on the ‘big stage’.

The event was held primarily to institutionalise the party mantel being passed onto Rahul from his mother Sonia Gandhi. It was more of a motivational event for the party leaders and workers.

It helped in energising workers to take on the BJP in the next general elections. Rahul thundered about dethroning the BJP from power, drawing parallels from Mahabharata.

Congress Shouldn’t Get Ahead of Itself

While all the glitz and glam is good, the question: “How will Rahul dislodge Modi from the top slot?” was missing from the entire event. Congress party just can’t hope to win elections on an anti-Modi plank. Congress party’s offer to the public and vision for the nation has to be communicated effectively.

Recently, Sonia Gandhi, at an ‘India Today Conclave’, opined that Modi’s ‘achche din’ could meet the same fate as Vajpayee’s ‘India Shining’. This hints at the Congress’ desire and hope that history will repeat itself – in its favour.

Congress feels it is the only party which is an alternative to the BJP on a pan-India basis (in LS 2014, the party was second in 224 seats with 67 seats having margin of less than or equal to 10 percent). And so, power will come to it sooner or later.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders at the 84th Plenary Session of the Congress in New Delhi on Saturday, 17 March.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders at the 84th Plenary Session of the Congress in New Delhi on Saturday, 17 March.
(Photo: PTI)

Rahul has been getting a lot of traction in the media since his return from the US. His popularity ratings are on the rise and he seems to have discovered his mojo. After giving the BJP a jolt in the recent Gujarat bypolls, and winning in Rajasthan, not to mention the BJP’s defeat in UP, Rahul’s confidence seems to have received a huge boost. The party has also upped the ante on social media. While all this sounds good, Congress lacks leaders who can slog it out on the ground and take up real issues faced by the people.

Cong Needs to Offer Solutions, Not Simply Criticism

Rahul dissolved the CWC but has formed a steering committee which consists of the same old leaders. He talked of opening the party platforms for talented youth but nothing substantial has been done on this front yet. The party’s top leadership mostly consists of family loyalists well past their prime, enjoying the comfort of their cozy offices. How are they expected to conduct dharnasgheraoshartalsyatrasand door to door campaigning?

Congress presented an economic resolution against the BJP’s policies, alleging that the saffron party has mismanaged the economy. While Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram accused Modi of failing to generate jobs, the party presented no action plan on how it intends to utilise our huge demographic dividend.

The Congress talked about creating a ‘national poverty alleviation fund’, essentially levying a cess on the rich to fund welfare projects for the poor. This shows a complete lack of innovation; lazy concepts of taxing the rich and providing the poor will not do any more. In fact, this shows that on economic policies, the BJP and the Congress are more or less the same.

Superficial Solutions to Old Problems Won’t Help Congress

The two leaders also highlighted the agrarian distress but provided no magic wand to solve the issue. “If you want to double farm income, you will need 12 percent growth per annum at the minimum and that is unthinkable… this is therefore, one more jumla from the government,” Manmohan Singh said.

So what does the former prime minister wish to say, that the farmers’ demand of raising MSPs to adequately cover their cost is not possible? Congress promised the old ‘lollipop’ again of farm loan waivers, forgetting that despite providing such waivers, UPA-II lost the elections in 2014.

Rahul thundered that Modi is not fighting corruption, and that Modi is corruption itself. Modi has built a strong reputation and this charge will need to be backed; no CAG reports talk of major scams yet unlike in UPA II.

Congress party’s Rafael deal scam allegations against the BJP have not been absorbed by the public. While Rahul admitted UPA-II didn’t meet the expectations of the people, Chidambaram sounded confident that the Congress would come back to power with ‘friends and allies’. With the same friends whose ministers were involved in corruption cases? While some have been let off lately by courts, public perception matters.

Questions Rahul Needs to Dwell On

Before asking the people to dethrone Modi and choose him instead, Rahul needs to answer these questions:

  • Why should people choose him over Modi?
  • How will he able to do things better than Modi?
  • Why should the people trust him, considering his lack of experience in politics?
  • What are the lessons he has learnt from the past?
  • What does his new team look like?
  • How will he ensure a corruption-free rule given the pulls and pressure from allies like in UPA-II?

Rahul Gandhi needs to re-constitute the CWC without wasting any time and bring in fresh faces. It’s already been more than 3 months since he became Congress President. He also needs to constitute a shadow Cabinet soon, to take on the BJP’s policies and programmes. He needs to reach out to leaders of various regional parties and convince them to get on board an anti-BJP front. The Congress simply can’t sit and hope that history (2004) will repeat itself. Time is running out.

This article was first published in TheQuint.
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