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New postulate one

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New postulate one. As the first round of nominations have closed, three things have become clear. One, Sonia Gandhi remains the glue in the Congress...

As the first round of nominations have closed, three things have become clear. One, Sonia Gandhi remains the glue in the Congress and her chosen successor Rahul has many miles to go before he can stand alone. Two, the old guard in the BJP has lost their plot to the new generation, who are in a hurry to shine under the Modi sun. Three, the forecasts by desi and videsi psephologists notwithstanding, it is not advisable to write off the Congress as also ran. Not as yet, certainly!

If you have noticed the presser addressed by Sonia Gandhi while releasing the Congress manifesto, you would have no hesitation to agree with Postulate One. While son Rahul spoke as if he was at the India International Centre, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared jaded and what he said in his inimitable style with an expressionless face failed to register either on his immediate audience or those seated before the TV sets. Singh is never an orator, and, therefore, it is patently wrong to criticise him. So it was left to Sonia Gandhi to rescue the situation, and inject some life by fielding tough questions. Sonia adroitly defended the ticket to Ashok Chavan (AC), who had lost his job as the chief minister of Maharashtra after the Adarsh scam hit the headlines last year. His resignation was projected then as Rahul effect as the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family tried to masquerade as Kejriwal Mark II to clean the system from vestiges of corruption.
So, when the AC question was raised, it was expected that he would give the reply. But Mother Sonia chose to answer. She did not say anything new though. Surprisingly, she did not use the occasion to point a finger at the BJP which also has retrieved its fallen Karnataka mascot, B S Yeddyurappa. This is surprising but that is beside the point. In the context of Postulate One, what matters is the fact that she has chosen to defend the ticket to AC. It shows where the buck stops in the Congress party to the relief of Rahul, and his young coterie.
More to the point, the Sonia reply on Chavan highlights the failure of the Baba brigade, as the Rahul and co are descried often in the Congress circles, to come to grips with the X factor that guides destinies at the ballot box. It is great to talk about ideas and ideology as Rahul likes to but the two ‘I’s are only a means to an end and not an end by itself. Any experiment in party management or planning for electoral battles must have an indigenous orientation. Otherwise it will end up with egg on the face. Yes, your guess is right and my reference is to primaries that Rahul Gandhi had conducted in some key constituencies for selection of candidates. He borrowed the concept from the United States, a country which he frequents regularly.
Primaries per se are not bad. But why do you need them when the Congress claims to have a grassroots pan-India network. From the polling booth to the district level and beyond, the party has a presence – a structured presence in the past and an amorphous existence today. This state of affairs are a direct fall-out of the way the Congress has been managed after the decision making process got centralised in the First Family (FF), and gave birth to mini and micro dynasties across the country.
Ashok Chavan represents one such micro dynasty. His father, S B Chavan, was the chief minister of Maharashtra and Union Home Minister. Nanded, a busy town, is the Chavan family’s pocket borough. With the party becoming a family concern there is no room for fresh blood that used to find its place in the good old past as seniors used to spot and nurture talent with affection. It takes a minimum of 20 to 25 years to groom a leader from the gross roots, veteran politician Balaram Jakhar told me once.
Whatever be their other failings, both the BJP and the Left have a system in place to groom leaders from various streams like youth and student wings, for instance. Arun Jaitley and Sitaram Yechury are products of the student union politics. So is Prakash Karat. It is this good-bye to the time-tested political processes that made RG’s Congress to see manna in American primaries. But these suffered from all the ills the Congress is afflicted with. Moreover when winnability is what matters in the do or die 2014 battle, SG’s Congress has no time for such experiments in revivalism. This is clear from the para-dropping of Madhusudan Mistry on Vadodra to take on NaMo though the city unit chief Narendra Rawat had “won” the primaries.
It is this reality check coupled with a reading of the BJP pulse from Punjab to Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to Bihar that makes it necessary to hoist a cautionary signal as the surveys by American think tanks to our very own NDTV Battle Ground specialists have gone to the town projecting NaMo as the clear front runner. He may appear to justify the new adulation by reciting Vajpayee mantra but that is not enough. Voters will come to the polling booths only if the cadres are enthused to work to a plan.
The question that stares at the BJP, which has become a Congress clone, is whether the BJP will end up as its own enemy and thus prove the time-tested theory that Congress is its own worst enemy. Time, therefore, for NaMo brigade to pray to stop the reincarnation of Comrade HS Surjeet to the relief of SG and RG.
(The writer, Delhi-based senior journalist and South Asia analyst, can be reached at mramarao2008@gmail.com)
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