"What did we do other than holding annoying press meets every day? People will not vote by seeing press conferences", the media quoted Congress MLA in Kerala, Shanimol Usman as saying at the Political Affairs Council of KPCC, convened to discuss the setbacks the party suffered in the recent local bodies' election. Reports also speak of several others having expressed similar criticism. VD Satheesan is said to have commented that if this is the way the party moves forward, it will have to hold another meeting soon to review another round of defeat. Senior leaders K Muraleedharan and K Sudhakaran had, even prior to the council meeting, raised concerns publicly. Muraleedharan had gone to the extent of ridiculing that those who had got ministerial and legislators' robes tailored and ready would better keep them aside. On the whole, the words and expressions of Congress leaders make mirthful reading. However, they all seem to forget that Congress is composed of them too.
Making the right introspection, however painful that be, and making corrective measures is the way forward for any movement; but that culture is badly missing in the Congress as a result of which what happens when defeated is mutual mud-slinging. Little surprise then that those who had clashed with each other even at the climax of the electoral battle, will indulge in such a war of words. The chief curious feature of the Congress's election campaign was a spectacle with the KPCC president on the one side on issues of ties with Welfare Party and RMP, and other office-bearers on the other side attacking each other. The Congress party owes it to the people not to expect them to vote for them for such internal bickering. All the same, nobody need have any illusion that such faction fights are anything new in the Congress; it has seen worse internal squabbles. Still the party had many times in the past survived them, held out and even won. But that had less to do with the merit of Congress than the arrogance and inefficiency of the ruling dispensation of the time. But this time, the Pinarayi government has done quite a lot in the matter of welfare schemes and Covid pandemic management; and they have succeeded in highlighting them and impressing them on the people.
The government tried to defend the allegations against it surrounding gold smuggling and corruption with its welfare schemes. In addition, the ruling party CPM also used a strategy of whipping up an anti-Muslim public sense and succeeded in using it along communal lines. The Muslim-phobia created among upper class Christian and Hindu segments formed a crucial factor that aided its victory. The campaign of raising a bogey about the Welfare Party was part of this. As a matter of fact, the party that had reached local electoral understanding with the Welfare Party much earlier than UDF, is LDF. But the Congress camp was so weak and ineffective that it could not even play up this truth to their advantage . What the KPCC president kept doing was merely falling into the trap of the communal narrative raised by the CPM and releasing curious statements. The CPM on the other hand, kept live an anti-Muslim wave among Hindu and Christian voters.
The first step of facing an election is to evolve and determine the narrative and propaganda to use in its campaign. What the voters found instead was that the Congress was incapable of even this when everyone was playing his own tune to suit his whims. Naturally there will be no reason for the common man to cast his vote for such a crowd. Therefore, the first thing for the Congress to do is to define what they will tell the people and what its narrative is going to be, and then put forth that version in a language intelligible to the commoner. They should at least realize that the KPCC president, given to using a language that had seen its end in early 80s, was an unpleasant presence during the election campaign.
Congress leaders have been talking about the absence of organisational work at the lower rungs. There is a pertinent reproach that its leaders were visible only on the television screen. They have to accept the fact they cannot take their politics to success without being prepared to mobilise people at local levels, or by merely making capital out of issues gifted to them such as Swapna and ED investigations against rivals. Therefore, they have to do solid leg work, and work really hard. The Congress is a party that finds it difficult to breathe in the absence of power. If the same situation is going to repeat in the upcoming assembly election, the situation will be of the BJP gulping the entire Congress. Therefore, let them start working in right earnest – without fighting each other that is.