CNBC-TV18 Column – The churn in Congress – it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff

This appeared in CNBC-TV18 on 25th July:

Fourteen months after the Congress JDS alliance took charge in Karnataka, they lost the trust vote by 6 votes, 99-105, triggering the fall of the state Government. It looks likely that the BJP will form the next Government of Karnataka. The collapse of the Government was brought about by fifteen JDS and Congress MLA’s resigning from both parties, allegedly because large sums of money were used to trigger these resignations. 12 MLA’’s from the Congress, and 3 from the JDS were displeased with the earlier government and resigned.  Amit Shah has been accused of horse trading and engineering these resignations, though there is nothing to prove that he did. The reputation of the BJP strongman is enough to make him the accused whenever there is a disruption in any other party, and legislators want to change the colours pinned to their masthead.

Congress Churn

But, this is not the first of the blows striking the Congress. Earlier this month, ten of the fifteen Congress MLA’s, in Goa, moved to the BJP, in a surprising switch of ideology and parties. The former leader of the Congress in Goa, Chandrakant Kavlekar, was rewarded for this move with the post of Deputy CM. Both Congress and BJP supporters were aghast – each talking about the values of their party, and how they need to stand for something. In Gujarat Alpesh Thakor, who was one of the star campaigners for the opposition during the state elections and one other MLA joined the BJP.

Given the bitterness between the two parties, and the claim of a battle of values, these comings and goings at a political level raise one core question. At a fundamental level if Congress members join the BJP, or vice versa, then do you need to question the judgement of the Congress in selecting them, and the BJP for accepting them. Are the values of the two parties so identical that people can make the jump without even a pause?

The Congress has been having a bad year so far, and the year is not yet over. At the top is the massive defeat in the 2019 General Elections, and the crisis of confidence that followed. Before they could recover, came the next blow that their president Rahul Gandhi was resigning from the post, taking accountability for the loss. And, this has triggered a spate of other resignations. While much of the dead wood in the Congress is safely intact in its place, a number of the younger leaders have taken Rahul Gandhi’s cue and put in their papers. For a party that has been starved of talent, this is a loss. However, you may not say the same thing about those changing parties.

If a Congress member feels comfortable in the BJP, or a BJP member feels at home in the Congress – then both were in the wrong place to begin with. While the Congress reels under these losses now, it is possibly the best thing that happened to it. It is shedding people who ought not to have been selected.   

In the India the concept of Manthan or churn is deep rooted. Churn is the chaos and disruption that gives you a glorious outcome. But the churn itself is traumatic. . Shyam Benegal had made a film called Manthan about the birth of Amul. And, the Manthan referred to both the churn of butter being formed, and the social churn which empowered women. It was from a societal point of view, temporary chaos. But the results were great. The most famous Manthan, however,  is the Sagar Manthan, where the ocean is churned to find the nectar of immortality. If you read the Bhagvad Purana, you will know that the churn was not easy. Different parties work together to make it happen. The outcomes were great, but the churn itself was traumatic, and tortuous.

Every organisation, every system, every nation, every, goes through churn. And, when there is churn, there is going to be losses. People leave. When an organisation is going through a bad patch, many professionals will leave. Those who stay do so for two reasons – one is that no one else will hire them; the other is because they truly believe. For the Congress it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff and find those who truly believe and give them positions of responsibility. When you see a DK Shivkumar’s valiant single-handed battle to save the Government of Karnataka, you wonder why a scrapper like him is not in more prominence in the centre. The Congress needs to identify leaders like this who emerge from the churn, and make them steer it – booth by booth, constituency by constituency. It is not an easy battle. No one is going to wave a magic wand and fix the Congress’ woes. It has to go through the churn and make the most of the churn. And, for that it needs a plan.

News Reporter

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