The rising tide of resentment against chief ministers foisted by the high command in the Congress-ruled states of Maharashtra, Assam and Haryana has a lesson for party president Sonia and her protégé and son Rahul. They must democratise decision-making in the organisation and leave the job of choosing legislative party leaders to elected representatives. The party chieftains no longer enjoy the kind of untrammelled power they did before the Lok Sabha electoral debacle. The rank and file of the party cannot be brushed aside in an autocratic manner.
Rahul has often spoken in favour of internal democracy in the party but his actions belie his statements. He must now take the promise to its logical conclusion. Chief ministers, as the party leaders in the Assemblies, should be elected by Congress legislators to allow dissidence to be funnelled into open debate and find its own cure. Only then will those enjoying genuine support win. In Assam, health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma resigned from the Tarun Gogoi ministry as the high command refused to entertain his call for a change in leadership in the state. As many as 31 legislators declared open support for him. If the party high command disregards the writing on the wall there could be further trouble for Gogoi. Succumbing to dissident pressure will only encourage indiscipline. When Gogoi was foisted as leader by the high command, had a fair election been held within the party such an eventuality wouldn’t have arisen or if it did it could have been dealt with firmly. The same goes for Maharashtra where Prithviraj Chavan was catapulted from the Centre bypassing local leaders and Haryana where Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s acceptability was not tested while imposing the will of the high command.
Instead of playing favourites, the Congress must abandon the practice of foisting a leader and heed the genuine desire of legislators and make its choice accordingly.