NEW DELHI: The much-anticipated meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s apex decision-making body, on Monday delivered a damp squib, leaning towards status quo and harmless tokenism, rather than any bold, reconstructive steps. In short, there was lot of sound, but no fury.
A stage that was expected to witness dramatic resignations, and the beginning of perestroika, saw everybody saving everybody else from any extreme outcome — with the only sign of change being, in fact, an implicit return of the old guard at the controls.
With her opening remarks, Congress president Sonia Gandhi signalled that what was to follow would contain not blunt introspection, but transference of blame to external sources. Lavishing fulsome praise on the Manmohan Singh government, she said the UPA could claim credit for authoring innumerable progressive policies and legislations.
It was a government that had done its job in an exemplary fashion and the party’s electoral loss was not related to its performance. Instead, the rout was entirely due to the kind of polarising campaign the BJP ran, Sonia said, and its consistently unfair targeting and lampooning of the government.
But given the extent and enormity of the defeat, she as party president offered to resign — the first ever to have offered at the CWC meeting under these circumstances.
Manmohan Singh was the next to speak. That Sonia’s offer, prefaced by a sheltering of the UPA government from any responsibility, was a symbolic one that expected a return of favour became clear soon enough. He was witness to how Sonia and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had “worked extremely hard” during the campaign, Manmohan said, adding that there was no justice at all in them taking responsibility for the defeat.
Then came Rahul’s turn. He bemoaned the absence of accountability in the party and said that, as the leading face of the campaign, it was only fair that he cop the blame for the poor electoral performance and relinquish his post.
However, party leaders unanimously rejected both Sonia and Rahul’s resignation offer.
The near-choreographed precision with which the buck was passed around on everyone’s behalf by others continued when the rest of the CWC members - 38 of the total 41 being present - erupted in loud volleys of protest at Rahul’s suggestion.
There was no question at all of Rahul resigning, they said in unison, underlining the fact that when the Congress talks of change, there is always a large degree of continuity implicit in it.
In fact, even other novel ideas, like the one thrown up by Kamal Nath during a television interaction of reforming the CWC and turning it into an elected body, were nowhere in sight.
The only sign of change, indeed, was a restoration of status quo ante in one sense.
This came about in the media briefing thereafter where Janardhan Dwivedi, a stalwart of the pre-Rahul generation, took centrestage, while Ajay Maken, Rahul’s handpicked youth representative, sat meekly beside him.
One indication, if you like, that the old guard has found an opening to reassert itself after being sidelined for a year or more.
Issues like Telangana were not discussed, Dwivedi said in answer to a question - indeed, no individual or particular state was talked about.
The meeting had ended with a resolution that the CWC entrusts Sonia with the task of a “structural” overhaul of the party organisation. And so on till the next CWC meeting.