After having inducted party rebels who won as independents into the Uttarakhand Cabinet, nothing can be more farcical than the notices issued by the State Congress party to dissidents who are believed to have indulged in anti-party activities during the recent elections. The only message that this action communicates is that only ‘unsuccessful’ dissidence would be punished. The dissidents who succeeded in showing up the party and humiliated local party units with electoral victories would be welcomed back into the party fold with garlands and honour. It was just such policies that led to the emergence of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, where the Congress has been reduced to a pale shadow of what it was in the past.
There has to be a consistency in policy. If compromises have been made for the sake of forming a government, there should be a general amnesty for all the rebels, so that the party can look to the future. At the present it just seems that party factions are taking it out on their rivals, and the supposed cleansing process is actually an attempt to get even for past injuries. The latest buzz is that the State Party President, Yashpal Arya, is in a foul mood because, while he was working to forge unity, his faction ended up getting short shrift. This clearly indicates the state of the party within and the lack of even basic ideological unity that would help overcome the divisions.
What are the issues the party should be ‘divided’ on? Should the differences not be on what road to take for the state’s development and the kind of people to be entrusted with responsibility? The Congress has certainly surprised observers with its well-charted plan for the future as defined in the Governor’s address. It has not relied so much on ‘hard’ initiatives and focused more on ‘soft skills’ development that would boost the sectors requiring an available human resource rather than infrastructure of concrete and steel. If it could get its act together for such a document, then why can it not adopt the same objective approach to designating responsibilities based on the temperament, ability and experience of the individual concerned? Why should a faction be interested in promoting a ‘duffer’ from its own followers, rather than a deserving person from another faction? The consequences of this would be experienced by the party as a whole – something that became more than clear with the fate of the earlier BJP regime.
It is not that the party does not recognise persons of such clearly defined ability – if not for the top job, some have been obvious choices for certain portfolios. Unfortunately, of course, owing to coalition compulsions, not too many Cabinet posts were available for the party’s own leaders. There would be less heartburn, and many of the overlooked leaders would not be so unhappy if they had the confidence that merit would always count and someone else’s getting the job did not mean their hopes for the future would be further diminished.
Even though former Leader of the Opposition Harak Singh Rawat may have said it to paper over his embarrassment at having been overlooked in the first cut, but it is absolutely true that an ‘ordinary’ MLA can do a lot, sometimes more than even a minister. A good example of this is the BJP’s Ganesh Joshi, who maintained a high profile even though he was ‘just’ an MLA, and even managed to get re-elected and from a constituency other than his original one. In fact, constituencies gifted with such active MLAs tend to benefit and can even be glad that their representatives are denied more onerous responsibilities. It may be noted that even the prospect of having a Chief Minister as their MLA did not motivate voters to elect BC Khanduri from Kotdwar.