“Would Congress Remain a Movement”

Congress just concluded it’s 85th plenary in Raipur. It’s annual plenary‘s are the basis of studying and understanding the history of the national movement they are not on neither annual nor as significant. Congress plenary’s had been a platform of deliberation and decision making, usually each plenary used to have a new president and a year-long agenda. Those days Congress was not in power nor was a claimant of power so definitely its resolutions and agenda were not about manifesto’s and promises. They were action points. The body was an organization of volunteers, who took upon themselves to carry out the agenda. They criticized and place demands in front of the colonial government, but that wasn’t what the plenary was for. They could be done by press, conferences and articles and memoranda. Yet it educated the members and supporters on what the Congress thought. While this helped them to speak to the masses back in the villages, it was not the chief concern of the volunteers, or the masses and much of it may have been beyond their comprehension, and also that it made no significant change in their lives. Except to fuel their imagination which then give them some hope. So what exactly a plenary is meant for in a huge organization like the Congress there are and ought to be multiple deliberative platforms, each deliberating on its specific concerns like on economy, foreign policy, weaker sections, women, agrarian, social justice issues and their respective local issues.

The plenary is for them to be collaged into a picture and a narrative to appear but even this in the age of information, technology is a continuous process because you are expected to respond to any issue almost immediately, and the top leadership is constantly under scrutiny.

So what then is the primary and unsubstitutable function of a plenary. One is to show the united face of the party and leadership above all groups and divisions, and such unified command in authority to allocate the action points to the Cadres and volunteers.

In this light, the Raipur session is found wanting. its resolutions are well thought out, compiled and also content heavy but they are just resolutions. which would never reach the volunteers or the masses. They may serve as manifestoes or guides for the manifestoes, but we have seen the credibility of manifestoes eroded, so much so that the bjp has stopped issuing any. A short Samkalp Patra in the middle of a multi-phased election suffices. Secondly, the manifesto of the Congress is in a even more precarious condition, like what Gandhi ji famously said about the Crips commission. That it is a post dated cheque of a fallen bank.

When the people don’t see you as a serious contender for power, there is no point in promising things that you would deliver on coming to power. Your lofty promises turn into tall tales, imagine a promise like the NYAY of the 2019 elections making no dent while Modi’s Rs.2000 every four months won him the election. Simply said, a bird in hand is better than two in the bush.

Things have only worsened since then. This brings the Congress to the pre-independence era where it’s neither in power, nor an immediate claimant of power, and even the façade of a constitutional system has been done away with by the Modi government to an extent that you can’t expect from it anything more than what you could from a colonial government. They are not obliged to reply to you and your questions, even on the floor of the parliament. Your plenaries in post independence times helped the party organization to confront and advise the government. Your tiny state governments no longer enjoy the autonomy to carry out your resolutions as all authority and power have been sequestrated and centralized within the PMO.

The media is no longer interested in your plenaries and is, in fact, hostile to all your endeavors.

This leaves you with only your cadres and sympathizers to fall back upon, so while the rituals of resolutions and messages are through a concrete agenda, for the volunteers is missing. Does it not make the entire exercise ritualistic ? The Congress then did not wait for power to implement its educational, social or economic policies. Whatever be the scale, it acted upon its resolutions. In a similar situation now you need to act and implement your policies independent of state power. Ground action will convey your idea, commitment, capacity and leader ship to the people.

Ground action will allow for larger mass participation, and would create stakeholders. Investment of such time would bind the people to the party. The power of the Charkha or the constructive programs cannot be overestimated. The bharat jodo yatra was an expression of commitment, but was without a statement of idea or vision for action. Moreover that is not for the leader to talk in yatras. It has to come through a program at the block and sector levels. Congress has been and is a movement. Perhaps it’s the reason why it does not have any cadre training and indoctrination system. Movements are not formed by resolutions. It is formed by the participation of the people.

While it may be unfair and devoid of all humility to suggest something here, a cursory look at its recent resolutions provide enough scope to allocate action programs. I have just attempted some, like It can take upon itself too, to do an annual social justice survey on the lines of economic survey as it proposes without any state intervention While the Rohit vemula act would come, nothing stops you from making Rohit vemula support councils in the campuses.

For manual scavenging, you can start by providing and training on automated cleaning gear for manual scavengers.

A national sexual violence helpline can be started.

To organize and hold national and state level games does not need the state The best way to ensure and help farmers get remunerative prices is to focus on Mandi elections and to organize local real and virtual markets.

The Congress should run seeds and fertilizer banks across districts.

Village level animal, and cattle shelters will help in managing the Menace off stray cattle.

The Congress should form district level, Agro expert bodies to issue timely, advisories It should urgently form anti-lynching, squads or teams.

It should train and launch teams for Gandhi Katha and Gandhi pravachan.

It should start hate crime victim, shelter, houses.

It should form an independent Congress, Lokpal to receive. inquire and submit reports on, complaints of corruption.

Building on the experience of the Covid pandemic, they should form permanent health intervention teams in all the districts.

The Congress should organize camps for training of panchayat members on Constitution and business rules.

Village level, Gram van Raksha samitis should be started.

It can start a Ganga cleaning mission with awareness as a major tool.

It should announce a shadow cabinet immediately.

It may form a foreign affairs, cell, and a non-alignment cell.

As its major economic concern is the growing inequality, it may redesign the Bhudaan movement for economic intervention. I lack such imagination, but may be anything like Bhaagdaan (shares) to the workers of private companies. Imagine the message it conveys, results would flow when you have the state apparatus to deliver.

The BJP has shown its presence not through the government but by its non state actors be that the gaurakshak gangs anti love jehad and anti conversion thugs the rss sakhas or even the malicious dharm sansads.

These cannot be countered by resolutions. Even token presence in these will convey a far greater message than any number of resolutions

This article has been written by Dr. Vikram Singhal. The ideation & articulation of this piece is entirely credited to Dr. Singhal

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