CWC catches the bull by its horns: critical time for democracy and the nation
Even as the party responds to the assault on democracy, opacity in political funding, political witch hunt and defections, it is wrong to blame party leadership for them
The Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body held a seven-hour long online deliberation on Monday this week and resolved that Sonia Gandhi would continue as the interim President till a new president is elected.
The CWC unanimously reposed faith in the leadership and pointedly said that no one would be allowed to weaken the party and the leadership. It also declared that intra-party issues could not be discussed through the media and invited party leaders to raise issues in party fora.
The meeting had been called in the backdrop of two letters, both written in August, to the Congress Organisation Secretary and the party president, seeking among other things an early election of a permanent Congress President and structural overhauling of the party. Some of the signatories took to social and mainstream media to vent their views, which drew criticism from most CWC members even as the four signatories who were members of the CWC were allowed to have their say.
Congress leaders privy to the deliberations point out that following the resignation of Rahul Gandhi in May, 2019 after taking moral responsibility for the electoral defeat of the party in the general election, the country had suffered huge reverses in quick succession. In August there was the assault on the special status of Kashmir. In December the Government passed the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act triggering protests. In March, 2020, the Government imposed an arbitrary lockdown. In May, the country faced external aggression in Ladakh and lost Indian territory. And in between there were severe economic shocks and the migrant crisis.
The Congress leadership, they point out, was robust in opposing the assaults on the Constitution and democratic processes. They also consistently raised national issues and suggested steps the Government should take. They also had to tackle the political crisis engineered by the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan during this period. In such a situation, holding an AICC session was, not surprisingly, not a priority.
They added that a vindictive government has been hounding Congress leaders in several states. In many states, under the pretext of the lockdown, political activities are not being allowed with Congress leaders being arrested and prevented from meeting even victims of violence in Uttar Pradesh. But the Government and the Election Commission are pushing forward with the scheduled Assembly election in Bihar in October.
Congress leaders said they were amused at the narrative pursued by the media that Congress has been weakened and has no future. There is indeed a crisis in the political system of the country, they said, and all the perceived weaknesses and aberrations that commentators cite in the Congress, are present in BJP as well. BJP presidents have not been elected either but have been nominated and endorsed by the RSS. As many as 15% of BJP MPs happen to be the children of BJP leaders. Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states are also not elected but imposed from the top.
There is a deep crisis in the political system, they acknowledged. But rather than discussing the opacity of the electoral bonds, the legitimacy accorded to defection by elected MLAs and MPs and the increasing money and muscle power in elections, headline grabbers and the BJP seem more inclined to divert attention by blaming the Congress for not being an ‘effective opposition’.
There are other challenges facing the Congress and other parties, which no longer have a level playing field and which must be prepared to be harassed by central agencies like the CBI, ED and the Income Tax. The close relationship between the BJP, crony capitalists and tech companies like Facebook and Google have also skewed the political landscape. And the fear of the Government is such that even those who would like to donate money to the opposition parties have been shying away from donating Are attacks on the Congress at such a juncture and attempts to weaken it strengthening the country, they wondered. Does the country gain if the Congress loses?