The Indian National Congress has a checkered past that’s undeniably closely linked to the birth, formation and history of the Indian Republic. Even accepting the critic’s taunt that it’s a mere shadow of its past, the party’s Working Committee has a history that shaped the nation’s politics.
Before Bose had his bitter parting with Gandhi, he and Nehru constituted the Left camp within the CWC. In a series of letters, Bose admonishes Nehru for giving in to the Right bloc —“they quietly listen to your lengthy diatribe, then ask you to write the resolution, in which you do your democratic balancing act and accommodate their views”! The CWC is where the manoeuvring happened, led by the savvy Pranab Mukherjee and Arjun Singh, to establish Sonia Gandhi as party president, ousting Sitaram Kesri. The CWC polls during Narasimha Rao’s tenure too were riveting episodes. For a party that seeks to be attractive and politically viable, such internal tensions are not signs of weakness but a certain vibrancy.
In the 19 years of Sonia at the helm—the longest ever—the GOP did attain power twice, but also became a cabal of nominated members. The ailment seems to have lingered. It’s been months since Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as party chief was ratified by the AICC. The CWC—the party’s highest decision-making body—has not been set up. It would have been an unthinkable aberration in the past for an ad-hoc steering committee to continue so long. Rahul is said to be ready with the names, a mix of old guard and new blood. That’s fine as far as intent goes, but says little about collective decision-making.
Can the Congress be run on ad hocism, with a single person taking the decisions? It’s bad enough that the core structure of India’s oldest party, which had once produced titans, will have members nominated by a single individual—not just 12 of the 25 members, but virtually all. The least it can do is to internally maintain a semblance of the values of liberal democracy it espouses outside. The ‘high command’ must walk the talk.