A Review meeting of the Congress Party convened by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi in the aftermath of stunning defeat in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections reached to the conclusion that weak organizing committee of the party was responsible for its poor performance. It was also realized in the meeting that the conduct of some of the Union Ministers during campaign especially their controversial statements and unruly behaviour had also damaged the party’s poll prospects. After discussion on these factors, Rahul Gandhi talked about fixing accountability of the party leaders. Likewise, to trace the factors responsible for the party’s poor performance in the states like Punjab and Goa during elections, a committee headed by Union Minster AK Antony has been appointed to look after. As the UP elections had become a prestige issue for both the Congress Party and  its general secretary Rahul Gandhi as well. If the party failed to improve its position in the state in coming days, it could lose power at the Centre in the next general election. Although, the next election is supposed to be held in 2014 but it is also possible that it could be preponed. Clearly, the Congress needs to strengthen itself in Uttar Pradesh and other states also. After being appointed as the party general secretary, Rahul Gandhi has accepted the responsibility to regain the party’s lost political ground. In a bid to realise his dream, he has engaged himself in widening his public contact not only in Uttar Pradesh but in other states too, though his efforts have so far failed to bear any fruit and the Congress Party is facing a persistent crisis. Internal conflict within the party is making its organisation weaker and the style of functioning of the top party leaders is eroding the party’s mass base as well.

The way the influence of regional parties across the country is growing, it is posing a serious threat to both top national parties-Congress and BJP. Both the parties have failed to effectively tackle the challenges presented by the regional parties as they are controlled from Delhi. Both  the parties are equally accustomed to impose the decisions taken in Delhi on the state party units. The state level leaders who have wider influence on local people in true sense hardly make any impact on the policy making system of both the parties. This problem seems more glaring in the Congress Party. The party maintains suspicion in selection of Chief Ministerial candidates till the last moment which is accountable for promotion of internal conflict adversely affecting the unity of the party organisation.

During Rahul Gandhi’s review meeting, the participants overlooked the fact that three party stalwarts of the state were competing against each-other for the post of Chief Minister. It means they were virtually fighting against each-other and were engaged in downsizing either stature. Rahul Gandhi should show the guts to admit that internal bickering is prevalent in other states too which in turn weakens the party.  As long as the leaders of any party continues to fight against each-other, the party organisation cannot be strengthened. The leadership of the political parties will have to realize the fact that people are no longer ready to believe that our politicians are possessing the view to serve the society. It will be wise if all the political parties agree to strengthen their organisations in a democratic fashion and only able leaders should be allowed to hold the top postions as party presidents or state Chief Ministers. An important reason behind growing influence of the regional parties is the predominance of a particular leader and the whole party system revolves around the leader. No doubt, the regional parties too lack internal democracy but internal conflict within their organization is also not problematic. People also believe that the leadership of such parties is more capable in turning its promises into reality. The recent review of both the Congress and BJP clearly reflect that they are not ready to carry forward their political agenda on the basis of the issues concerning to the masses. Rahul Gandhi had launched an aggressive campaign in Uttar Pradesh against then Chief Minister Mayawati as well as other parties, but ironically his party lost elections in most of the assembly constituencies falling under his own Lok Sabha seat. In the assembly constituencies under Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha segment, Raebareli, failed to win even a single seat. It is hard to believe that the party’s defeat in Amethi-Raebareli region was due to the weak organization in the state. It is doubtful that the political parties choose to discuss about the shortcomings and images of their party candidates.   

Now-a-days people vote for a candidate of any party after judging image and credibility. If the selection of the candidate is not done impeccably and there is pointless dialogue  instead of rationale debate during the poll campaign, the party organization is at a loss to do any favour. A party organization will again be helpless when all the decisions including those concerning to the local issues will be taken ether by the central leadership or by the outsiders appointed by it. There is no use in raising such issues at the time of elections which are contrary to the image, capacities and work style of the party. Political parties at least should work seriously on the issues like selection of able candidates, recognising the real and relevant election issues and then inviting a meaningful discussion over these. If during elections, the political parties deny to raise the meaningful issues and move forward in right direction, it means they are not ready to accept the long pending electoral reforms. It doesn’t sound well that our political parties are aloof towards the political change which are very necessary for the proper functioning of our system. As long as our political system is not overhauled, our political parties will not be able to lead the nation in right direction and at the same time, our country will also not be able to move forward with full of its capacity.           

The Congress is the oldest party of the country, having comprehensive base, but it seems that the party has distanced away from those principles with which it fought for the Independence and compelled the British establishment to leave the country. When the Congress takes initiative to improve its contour, other parties will also fall in the line. The time has come that all parties should get to the bottom of their poll debacles as well as concrete steps to bring in electoral reforms with plugging the holes in the political system.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on April 8, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)