The Congress kicked off its Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir, a 3-day brainstorming conclave in Udaipur-Rajasthan, on a promising note with the party eyeing big changes and laying a road map to the future. The conclave assumes significance because the party appears to be thinking of a paradigm shift in approach and working style. To begin with, the leadership has admitted the ‘shortcomings’ of the party, and the agenda touches upon some critical points, untouched in recent times, including a plan to implement a ‘one family, one ticket system, a five-year ceiling to hold posts followed by a cooling-off period and setting up of an assessment wing to monitor the performance of office-bearers.
At a time when the Congress was losing relevance across India and was no longer looked down on as a principal opposition to the BJP coupled with a miserable collapse of the leadership, the 3-day conclave with the kind of agenda listed was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Politics has undergone a sea change in recent times, and Congress is found wanting in terms of holding itself up as a strong Opposition. The BJP has been running away with the game outplaying opponents with shrewd strategising, election management skills and marketing. In this regard, an example is a ploy to invoke Hindu nationalism with a conscious attempt to polarise voters. While the Opposition was busy picking holes at government policies and failures, the BJP has been zeroing down on vote banks. Congress has virtually run out of ideas when it comes to countering the political game plans of other parties.
In Goa, Congress appears to be in a rebuilding phase, but there is still no clarity on where the party stands after the new leadership took over. An uneasy calm still surfaces while veteran leaders have pushed themselves backstage. The party has to end its traditional ‘old versus new’ narrative and make peace with the rebellion within. The conclave, however, brings in a new vibe that Congress has reconciled with its failures and felt the need to address the larger issues instead of running away from them or ignoring them altogether.
The grand old party may be down in the dumps with all sorts of problems plaguing its rank and file, but still, it is seen as a principal opposition in the country, and there are high expectations from across States. The recent elections in Goa were a classic example where probable candidates revolved around Congress despite the party being hit by desertions and infighting and despite the fact that it was reduced to a mere two legislators from the 17 elected at the 2017 elections. It is a testimony of the fact that Congress has been a go-to party for decades, despite all the shortcomings and failures. If the party has to fight the Congress-mukt Bharat mission of the BJP, it has to reinvent and reboot.