From Indira to Rahul, the Congress has been reduced to a quarter of what it once was in India’s most populous state.
The Congress last won power in Uttar Pradesh in 1985, the year after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Since then, the slide in its fortunes has been inexorable, punctuated with the odd minor upturn. The waning of the grand old party in UP has been almost synchronous with its decline at the national level.
Out of power for 28 years, the party is defunct in the state. Yet the prospects of a revival are discussed as if it were a plausible proposition, something that might happen if only -- if only -- something magical were to happen. It is in pursuit of such a miracle that the high command frequently paradrops leaders of its choice -- Sheila Dixit and Raj Babbar being the latest -- to head the state unit, ostensibly to ignite the alchemy. Revival plans are drawn up, such as the current one steered by makeover specialist Prashant Kishor, and barnstorming visits by members of the Family are talked up. Such as the recent Kisan Yatra by Rahul Gandhi, the buzz from which faded as soon as it ended.
But all that can hardly compensate for the near-defunct cadre at the grassroots and the utter paucity of saleable leaders who can lead the revival. Minus the Gandhi family, there is no big, trustworthy, UP-centric political face in the party to mobilise the voters.
“Lack of charisma, political acumen and common sense in the top national leadership of the party have led to this state of affairs,” says political scientist Dr Ashutosh Mishra.
The state leadership is weak and disconnected with the electorate. The state Congress Committee has hundreds of nominated officials who seldom visit party units in the districts to get a feel of the issues on the ground. If at all they tour, they visit only the district headquarters. Even Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi’s visits to the state are limited to their respective constituencies – Rae Bareli and Amethi.
Important party decisions are taken either in Lucknow or in Delhi without keeping the local leadership in the loop. This has pushed many leaders and supporters away. A prominent switchover was that of erstwhile UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who went into a sulk when Sheila Dixit was brought in and projected as the chief ministerial face of the party and Raj Babbar was made the UPCC chief. Finally, Bahuguna quit the party.
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