Make space for the youth in Congress, says political analyst Raju Parlekar
India is a youthful country, and the Congress cannot afford to look like a party of geriatrics. Giving the youth a voice and paying attention to their ideas and opinions is the way forward
As the Congress's 85th plenary session concludes in Raipur on Sunday, we asked a bunch of political observers how they see the road ahead.
Writer and political analyst Raju Parulekar feels if the youth are not nudged in a positive direction, they will hurtle down the other way. The youth need to feel empowered and their ideas and idealism should be trusted because tomorrow’s India is theirs.
He also insists that an opponent playing dirty at every turn cannot be fought by fair means. Playing fair is a luxury you do not have if it’s not a level playing field.
Here's is the detailed conversation:
The Congress seems to have found some bounce from the Bharat Jodo Yatra. How can it build on this positive momentum?
In politics, perception is key: what you really do is often less important than what you are seen to be doing. The BJP propaganda machinery is very good at giving an impression of hyperactivity. They use film stars, sportspersons, comedians, other influencers, even godmen like Sadhguru to win over people and convert fence-sitters.
Anybody who can be bought is bought, and a whole army posts the same messages on barely visible cues, creating a momentum. Little wonder, then, that the BJP seems to be winning the battle of the screens, which is arguably where opinions are made today.
The Congress does need a well-funded PR wing because it cannot wish away the importance of publicity. It needs faces, preferably young, who speak the language people understand. And it’s good to remember that appearances matter.
Many well-intentioned critics say the party organisation needs to be revitalised. How?
India is a youthful country, and the Congress cannot afford to look like a party of geriatrics. The old guard is often seen as conservative, feudalistic, bureaucratic and out of touch with reality. The party must do everything possible to not become a dinosaur.
Giving the youth a voice and paying attention to their ideas and opinions is the way forward. Too many young people have been radicalised. They seem ignorant of history and don’t seem to grasp the tectonic shifts in our politics. If they are not nudged in a positive direction, they will hurtle down the other way.
The youth need to feel empowered and their ideas and idealism should be trusted because tomorrow’s India is theirs. The other imperative is to ensure that party workers at the bottom of the chain are also heard and have access to leaders; these channels of communication must open up.
Do you see the Opposition coming together for Lok Sabha 2024? Can the Congress be the fulcrum of that Opposition?
At this juncture, it is more important to dislodge the BJP government and eliminate the looming threat of fascism. While the Congress is undoubtedly a national party, it has been weakened and it needs other parties to dislodge the BJP.
In order to unite against a common enemy, the Congress needs to sacrifice its pole position, if necessary. The Congress will be the obvious fulcrum of the Opposition, but only if it does not position itself as such.
How can the Congress fight the BJP’s divisive agenda?
It is an uneven political battle on an uneven playing field, where the opponent is playing dirty at every turn. Such opponents cannot be fought by fair means. There can be no forgiveness for genocide, no diplomacy with fascists. Playing fair is a luxury you do not have if it’s not a level playing field.
On today’s battlefield, the options are limited. Nothing sells like hatred. Real issues, national unity, reconstruction seem almost banal. The Congress too must reach out and co-opt left-leaning, liberal sections of society, public intellectuals, artists and filmmakers.
Countering propaganda is difficult but not impossible. If the platform you have is not working, use someone else’s. The Democrats in the US have always done this against the Republicans—and it works.
Is it possible to simultaneously be welfarist and aspirational? What should be the pivots of the Congress’s alternative agenda for the country?
The Congress mindset has always had a welfarist orientation. It was an intrinsic part of the party’s dominant thought processes even before Independence and the party does not have to be apologetic or defensive about it.
Rejuvenating a secular democracy, a laser focus on real issues that affect people’s lives and livelihoods, a strong anti-fascist stand and a wholehearted pushback against all forms of institutional discrimination must mark the fightback.
RAJU PARULEKAR is a writer, blogger, poet and political analyst