Friday, December 8, 2023

Congress, democracy


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On a day when the Congress party releases the name of its elected president, it’s time to rejoice irrespective of who wins from among the two contenders – Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor. In the past several years, no political establishment here had attempted such a transparent exercise in the selection of its leader even as every party swears by all the fundamentals of democracy. The massive electoral exercise the Congress took up now – the first this century – has seen over 9000 delegates from across states participating in the voting on Monday. It’s amazing the party that has ‘dynasty’ at its core chose to opt for such a transformative step.
It was clear as sunlight that the quiet support of the Congress high command was with Kharge, a long-time leader from the South who fits in well with the established Congress culture even as he hailed from a laid-back Dalit community. In the last two weeks of the campaign, flamboyant Tharoor — who joined the party only a decade ago after his long engagement with the UN – raised “change” as his mantra and expected sizable backing from the new generation of Congressmen. The status quoists were not enthused and openly turned their back on him in a virtual gang-up. They cold-shouldered him in state after state including his native Kerala. Yet, if the lot falls on Tharoor, the Congress will be wedded to a new political culture. Winning the 2024 Parliament polls will still be a far cry as both PM Modi and the BJP are unlikely to yield substantial ground to their rivals.
The campaign trends showed Congress leaders across the nation, and perhaps many ordinary Congressmen/women, want the “first family” to continue guiding the party rather than handing it over on a platter to a “casual entrant” like Tharoor. They say he’s “yet to fully imbibe the Congress culture.” Tharoor by no means can be a rubber-stamp president. He has his individuality and a mind of his own. If he wins by any chance, he would likely be assertive. The same cannot be said about Kharge. Kharge’s strength is that with his long years of experience, he would not adopt a confrontationist posture with the first family and be accommodative to all. If he wins, fears are that even the present democratic exercise in the Congress might not result in an effective revival or restructuring of the party. After five months of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi is bound to be more assertive even as he does not want to be the president.

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