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Same Old

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In another yawn-inducing response to election setbacks and its ouster from power in Punjab, the Congress Working Committee on Sunday rejected Sonia Gandhi’s offer to quit as ‘interim’ President. Instead, it empowered her – for the umpteenth time – to make ‘comprehensive changes’ in the organisational structure of the party. Trust was reposed in the Gandhi family and the request made, reportedly ‘unanimously’, for Rahul Gandhi to take over the party’s reins. Nobody in the country was surprised because nobody cares about the condition of the ‘Grand Old Party’.

Except for the BJP, of course, which would like nothing more than the present amateur part-time leadership of the Congress to continue in office. The Congress is traditionally thought to be the national ‘alternative’ to the ruling party and its continuing decline can only be a source of comfort for those currently in power. Those who see the increasing influence of the ‘saffron ideology’ as a threat to the nation are, in the meanwhile, desperately searching for a leader who would inspire the opposition to join forces. For a while, it was Mamata Banerjee of the TMC, but her failure to make an impact outside her state has left them disappointed. The current flavour of the season is AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, but he has only occupied space vacated by the Congress. ‘Secular’ Akhilesh Yadav promised more than he could deliver and, come the Lok Sabha elections, will disappoint even more.

With several states in the hands of regional parties, what is the basis for ideological compatibility apart from a common antipathy to the BJP? Most regional outfits are based on narrow sectional interests, often at odds with those they tie-up with for the sake of power. The failed alliances of the SP in UP with the BSP, Congress and, the latest, RLD, are an example of this.

The truth is that, except for the very few, leaders have been unable to deliver on the aspirations of the people. Times have changed – the ‘top-down’ delivery system of governance does not work. While every section of society is eager to protect whatever privileges it enjoys, everybody is aware at the same time of the need to encourage a liberalised economy. All those who promise a return of the socialist model are bound to be disappointed when the votes are counted. Today, it is performance that matters – it may not be as is hoped, but those who make sincere efforts are appreciated. It is on this level that challengers must compete and, in this regard, the Congress greatly disappoints.