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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 44 October 22, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Oct 22, 2022

Friday 21 October 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Oct 22, 2022

The Congress Party which emerged out of the National Freedom movement has a long history of choosing consensus candidates for the post of its President and a real contest in internal elections for top leadership have been rare. In the past decade and more Sonia Gandhi has been its President. Rahul Gandhi had been elected President in late 2017 but he decided to resign after in July 2019 and since then the party has not had a permanent head. There has been a lot of finger pointing at the control over the levers of power inside the Congress party structure by the Gandhi’s both by opponents and well wishers. Over the past year or so, a group of 23 prominent leaders of the Congress party had written letters seeking changes and reforms in the party including the holding of elections for the top post but also for heads of the state level units. The need to have a full time Presidential Candidate was accepted by all but a suitable consensus candidate was not found. Therefore the October 17 election for the President of the Congress party has been a very significant development. The process created much energy & hope internally in the Congress party on its revitalisation and it provided a much needed public demonstration of elections in a mass political party. The party’s electoral exercise had its hick-ups and complaints were made to Congress Party’s election authority who tried to make corrections but there were gaffes for example in UP state where the party has dwindled but still has the largest number of delegates participating in the internal election. The fact that two non-Gandhi’s contested the October 17 election was very positive. Shashi Tharoor, the losing candidate ran a wonderful campaign and managed to get over a 1000 votes out of the 9,500 is a healthy sign and the numerous issues he managed to raise during the election came in the public glare, drawing wide attention of the party’s members and cannot be brushed aside. Yes one candidate won hand’s down with 80 percent votes (had the obvious goodwill of the power elites in the party) but the fact that there was a well organised process were two candidates used the campaign to present their ideas and also vent open criticism when it came to some procedural issues is a very welcome development and shows the mirror to all political parties including to the parties of the Left to hold more credible and transparent internal elections. Mallikarjun Kharge, the newly elected President of the Congress Party is a man from the Party old guard, he has a huge task ahead as multiple state level elections are to happen before the big 2024 General election. Equally important is the task of modernising and rebuilding the party. National and regional level conventions should happen to debate issues of importance and to forge internal policy and to attract new blood. The Bharat Jodo Yatra launched by the Congress has generated considerable enthusiasm both inside the party and also sections of independent civil society that have been participating in it despite their criticism of the Congress. The Yatra has become a space to interaction between regional & independent local social activists and Congress party workers and for bringing new public issues under the party’s radar where-ever possible which is very promising. Both, Congress’s recent presidential election and the Bharat Jodo Yatra offer hope for strengthening the axis of a live opposition that is much needed inside and outside the Parliament in the country.

October 22, 2022 - HK

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