NEW DELHI: Needless to say, reviving the 135-year-old Congress would be a gigantic task for the newly-elected AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge. He has taken charge at a time when the party workers and leaders are crestfallen. Over the past several years, the party has been witnessing an exodus of leaders, electoral defeats, infighting, sabotage and what not. The Congress has also faced challenges resulting from “operation lotus” allegedly at the behest of the BJP. All this has happened as a result of weakness at the level of high command. If Kharge manages to overcome these challenges then the Congress may come out of the worst ever crisis that it is facing now.
Before taking over the baton of Congress president, Kharge signalled that he would work like what ‘Bharat’ did after Lord Rama’s “vanvas” (exile). It means that only Rahul Gandhi will be the real boss. And, the party might not object to it as well. It is said that Rahul Gandhi does not budge an inch after taking any decision. Rahul Gandhi has proved it by not accepting the president post. If the Gandhi scion decides not to interfere in Kharge’s decisions, then he will remain firm on that also. So, if Kharge really takes some good and effective decisions then the organisational reforms may be seen in the days to come.
However, the steering committee formed by Kharge does not look to be that effective. Most of the CWC members have been included in this committee. Only Haryana in-charge Vivek Bansal has been kept out. The office-bearers would continue to look after their works till the formation of a new team. Kharge’s organisational skill would be tested during and after the upcoming AICC plenary which may be held after the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections in December.
After taking over the charge, Kharge started discussions on the Gujarat polls. He proceeded on an election tour as well. He would also go to Himachal. The results of Gujarat and Himachal polls would actually mark the beginning of Kharge’s innings. The victory will give Congress the much-needed oxygen. And the defeat will add to challenges for Kharge.
After the polls, the biggest challenge for Kharge would be to constitute the new team. Normally, CWC is constituted through election if a non-Gandhi leader becomes Congress president. In this case, constituting the team would be a highly challenging task for Kharge. This will provide him an opportunity to prove his organisational skills as well. Of all 23 members of CWC, 12 are elected and the rest are nominated by the president. The tradition so far has been that AICC delegates authorise the president to take all decisions regarding formation of the team. Nobody used to challenge the decisions of the Gandhi family. The biggest problem that Kharge will face is that the Gandhi family has three power centres. The leaders close to either power one centre or the other would be pushing for being accommodated in the CWC. All eyes would, therefore, be on whether Kharge takes decisions independently or the Gandhi family exercises its authority in terms of CWC formation.
Several office-bearers in the existing CWC are already under question due to the party’s drubbing in elections. Those who were in charge of states like UP, Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Assam and Haryana have performed miserably. Working of Ajay Maken, AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, is also under doubt. It is said that inexperienced leaders’ reports have harmed the party. It would be interesting to see how Kharge manages to side line such leaders. What is also important to see is whether the general secretary organisation would be changed or not. Leaders keep raising questions over “non-Hindi speaking” general secretary, KC Venugopal, who holds this post presently. Venugopal has an image of an honest leader but his work has been under question. If Kharge makes some bold decisions regarding these posts, it will be a strong message for the party. Soon after constituting his team, Kharge would be facing election in his home state Karnataka. The party is not on any strong footing in this southern state as well. It is faction ridden there and reuniting the factions would be a challenge for Kharge. He will also find it difficult to woo regional outfits. Another important task would be to counter BJP’s polarisation politics. As is indicated, the saffron party is set to resort to polarisation politics in Karnataka. After Karnataka, the BJP would also use the issue of Hindutva in Rajasthan and MP. Congress and its new president Kharge should prepare some strategy to counter it.