It is quite some time since Congress followers started the slogan "Bring Priyanka, Save Congress". It was the Congressmen in Uttar Pradesh who were humiliated by defeat after defeat that raised this slogan most ardently. Once the fortress of the Congress, UP has currently just two MPs and seven MLAs. The parliament seats are Raebareli of Sonia Gandhi and Amethi of Rahul Gandhi.
In the last parliamentary election, the party won the second place only in six constituencies. In such a background, there was nothing extra-ordinary in taking extra-ordinary measures to reinvigorate the party. And that was exactly what happened the other day, when Priyanka was appointed general secretary in charge of east Uttar Pradesh. Quite as can be expected, the decision - taken solely by Rahul - has created as much excitement in party rank as a keen interest in political circles.
In the recent elections to five states, dubbed as semi-final, the headway made by Congress was remarkable. BJP, which was mounting itself on the theme of Congress-free India, got a major jolt. But the poll results were an indication of something more, in that it raised fresh optimism about our democracy. In Madhya Pradesh, which had been ruled by BJP for 15 years in a row, few had expected such a comeback for the Congress. Among those who thought that the era of Congress had ended in Hindi heartland, there were also those who had sympathy for Congress. But when Congress won the seats they did, that dissipated all their pessimism.
Thus the victory in assembly elections considerably boosted the morale of Congress leadership and party workers alike. The ascent of Priyanka is happening on top of that upbeat mood. No doubt this will send an surge of added energy in the party. All these events in fact convey a message that a party that was once part of the shaping of Indian nationalism is not going to disappear, but getting stronger.
It can certainly be said that the Congress is in a path of reinvigoration. The foremost thing to do in such a situation is to introspect about the reasons for its setbacks. The Congress party had grown as a cross section of Indian nationalism; and the people had shared a feeling that it was a party of theirs too. However, when that feeling started started eluding different sections of people, the decline of that party set in. Then new players starting entering the field. Political movements representing different social, caste and geographical strands got formed in different states and a situation emerged when they could win political victories. And now such parties have grown to such a level of confidence that they can form alliances without even considering Congress.
At its time of glory long ago, Congress was in mood to care for political alliances. But today Congress is trying to forge as many alliances as possible. Which means it will be the politics of multi-party alliances that will more suit highly pluralistic India. One positive offshoot of such setbacks is that they too have, albeit slowly, come to this realization. Thus during the phase of its revival hence, Congress will have to translate this lesson into tangible form with greater care and application. In others words, its new awakening should lead that party not to arrogance, but to more pragmatic political steps.