Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back to the past for the future/Power&Politics/Mail Today,June 23,2008

THE TRUE test of any vote catcher is the ability to swing elections and on that count, the reverses in several Assembly elections suggest the Gandhi name is not enough to see the Congress through. After 12 back- to- back electoral defeats, in true Congress tradition, the party set up aseven- member committee headed by defence minister A. K. Antony, to prepare an “action plan”. Having been chief ministers, Union ministers etc, its members know what it takes to win an election. Areport, prepared after several rounds of meetings with Congressmen at all levels, has been handed over to party chief Sonia Gandhi. The committee has obviously learnt its lessons from the Karnataka debacle and among its recommendations is that the party name its chief ministerial candidate well in advance of elections in astate. It achieves two objectives: it enables the party to project the candidate and his/ her record in office/ governance; it also eliminates the need for last- minute compromises that neither serves the cause of good governance nor does any good for the image of the party. The committee is also faced with the uncomfortable truth of alack of an emerging leadership. In many states, it is yet to produce anew crop of leaders to whom the torch could be safely passed. It is therefore likely to recommend that the party fall back on the tried and tested leaders of the past. Five states are facing polls later this year. So in Delhi, Sheila Dikshit is likely to go for athird consecutive term, though Ajay Maken is said to be Rahul’s preferred candidate. In MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh too, the committee suggests the party fall back on old warhorses Diggyraja, Ashok Gehlot and Ajit Jogi. They may have the lost the elections the last time but have it in them to bounce back and boost the sagging morale of the Congress.

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