Shivers In Summer – The Congress Session At Udaipur

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - May 13, 2022 06:56 PM +05:30 IST
Shivers In Summer – The Congress Session At UdaipurCongress' Chintan Shivir (Twitter)
Snapshot
  • It was only the first day of a three-day conclave, but Congress' representatives already found themselves justifying and defending some of the decisions taken in the ‘Chintan Shivir’.

Residents of the picturesque lake city of Udaipur cherish their history well. Given half a chance, some will regale you with tales of Maharana Pratap, actor Dev Anand’s long sojourn in the city while shooting the film ‘Guide’, and dashing Roger Moore’s escapes from, and escapades with, a string of seductive femme fatales in ‘Octopussy’, the Bond movie which was partly filmed there. Others will share their admiration of anchor Rubika Liyaquat, who is today the city’s most famous daughter. The pride is palpable.

But what will they say some years from now, of the Congress Party’s ongoing ‘Chintan Shivir’, or introspection conclave? Will they say that Udaipur was the place from whence its glorious resurrection as a pan-Indian party began? Or, is it here that the party finally crumbled to bits? Or will no one even care?

Early sound bites and reports from day one of the Shivir indicate that the party is still firmly wrapped in a deracinated cocoon.

Manickam Tagore, MP for Virudhunagar seat in Tamil Nadu, opened the innings with a fawning tweet. A photo showed Rahul Gandhi arriving by train in Udaipur, and the accompanying text pressed the tweet’s point home: “Simple …Honest..Humble to poor ..It’s @RahulGandhi”

Portraying a man who travels abroad five times a month, on average, as a simple son of the soil, means that the cocoon is bottled and stored in an ivory tower.

A few hours later, it was Tagore again. Speaking to the press, he vociferously declared that Rahul Gandhi had to be elected by the Congress as its next president. The only problem is that he couldn’t tell when these elections would happen!

By this time, the internet was also awash with news that the Congress was finally going to crack down hard on dynastic politics. It was crunch time and a few hard decisions would be taken come what may. From now on, under a ‘One-family-one-ticket’ rule, only one member of a family would be permitted to contest elections.

This was a revamp with a vengeance, by the very party which had established itself as the best example of dynastic politics anywhere. No longer would entitled party brats be permitted to scurry up the ladder, bypassing dedicated, but less privileged, workers who had selflessly devoted their lives to the party.

But, as with all things Congressi, there was a caveat. Party leader Ajay Maken said that members of the Gandhi family were exempt from this rule, because there was another rule which allowed a second family member to participate in elections, if they had been active in the party for a minimum of five years.

“Priyanka Gandhi started working formally for the party in 2018”, Maken said, which of course is code that she will be eligible to contest the 2024 general elections as per party rules.

A rash of chuckles erupted across cyberspace, because this exemption seemed like the Congress was either playing itself for laughs with gallows humour, or hell bent on reinforcing its shambolic public image with self-destructive fury.

By lunchtime, Congress party gladiators were accusing channels sympathetic to them of spreading fake news. “Fake news alert”, tweeted BV Srinivas, National President of the party’s youth wing. The leniency provided by the five-year rule was applicable to everyone, he wrote, meaning that the Gandhi family was not being granted special exemptions.

That’s when the noose grew tighter, because by Srinivas’s own clarification, then, a large number of Congress dynasts would be eligible to contest elections. Worse, his ‘clarification’ also meant that his party’s grand talk of stamping out dynastic politics was nothing but fluff!

Meanwhile, back in Kerala, local channels were busy talking about the departure of a Congress stalwart to Communist ranks. KV Thomas, a dedicated party worker, and a man who won Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat six times, finally left the party in disgust.

This was a denouement which began after he was senselessly denied a ticket in 2019, ironically in favour of a dynast named Hibi Eden.

And that was only the morning of the Udaipur conclave’s first day.

This is a pretty pickle the Congress party finds itself in, especially when they have a golden opportunity, to try and do well in three important elections which are due within a year – Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka.

It doesn’t augur well for a such widely-publicised conclave, if the Congress’s media team and senior delegates issue statements and rebuttals, without doing the one thing they have convened at Udaipur for – introspection.

Perhaps they may get their act together before the session ends. If they don’t, even the heat wave presently scorching the subcontinent won’t be able to keep away the shivers at the Shivir.

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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