The newly constituted Congress Working Committee (CWC) under the Indian National Congress (INC) president Mallikarjun Kharge presents indeed a delicate political balancing within the party that was necessitated due to the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha Elections in five states by the end of 2023 and the Lok Sabha election by May 2024, yet the party needs much more to become politically resurgent in the country, currently in relation to the newly constituted INDIA opposition alliance to take on BJP under PM Narendra Modi, and neutralising the toxic socio-political environment in the long run.
However, this much can be said that in a given scenario when the three members of Gandhi family – Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi – have been super active in these days, the daunting task of reconstitution of CWC was perhaps done by Mallikarjun Kharge very wisely, in spite of some weaknesses that have ultimately cropped up.
INC has been the victim of groupism within for quite some time now. Even internal elections have been marked with bitter infighting in place of friendly contests among members of the same flock with a shared dream of the ‘socialist secular democratic republic’ to secure ‘justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity’ to the citizens of India.
The bitterness of groupism was seen in the recent presidential election of the party that finally elected Mallikarjun Kharge its new president, while Shashi Tharoor was defeated. The newly constituted CWC shows that the bitterness generated at the time of the election and thereafter is somewhat softened that is why Shashi Tharoor is now full member in the CWC.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor says, “…I am honoured by the decision of the Indian National Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and the Congress central leadership to make me a full member of the Congress Working Committee…I am deeply humbled and grateful to be a part of this major institution alongside my valued colleagues. I have to say that none of us can truly accomplish anything without the lakhs of committed party workers who are the lifeblood of the party… .”
The importance of the reconstitution of the CWC has well been said by Shashi Tharoor while indicating the importance of taking along the “committed party workers”. The meaning is more indicative than it was actually expressed in words. During the last several decades we have seen “sycophants” rising in the party more rapidly than the “committed” workers and leaders, the evil that ultimately brought down the entire party from the glory of the past to a party struggling for its own survival in the present, losing its vital strength to shape the destiny of the country as it was dreamt in the Constitution of India after independence in 1947.
CWC had set for an ambitious goal of truly social representation in Udaipur session last year in May 2022. The question of electing a new president haunted the party in general and Gandhi family in particular on account of criticism within and sharp attack by other political parties for the alleged ‘dynastic rule’. The well-known G-23 of Congress leaders had even written a letter asking for stronger leadership in the party. It was a wise decision to get now-defunct G-23 members in the CWC, which may discourage groupism.
G-23 leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad have even quit the party, and now those who quit Congress in J&K with him, many recently rejoined the Congress, which is only one of the examples. Several Congress leaders across the country has also recently rejoined the Congress, which indicates the organisation improvement within the party. The reconstitution of CWC should be expected to bring further improvement.
Without getting diverted, we must come back to the important issue of “truly social representation” within the CWC. INC took almost five months after the Udaipur Session to have a presidential election and new elected president. Mallikarjun Kharge became the Congress President in October 2022, but he soon realised the task of reconstitution of CWC was not so easy to become truly social representative body. It delayed for another 4 months on account of the difficulties and finally he was authorised by AICC’s Raipur Session in February 2023 to accomplish the delicate task. It took another six months to announce the new CWC on August 20, 2023.
Given the background and the difficulties in formation of CWC, it was but natural to have some residual troubles in the form of the committee’s structure itself, though he has tried his best to combine the experience of old guards and the vital strength of the party’s youth power. Half of the CWC members was to be under 50 years of age, but it could not be achieved, however, chief focus was to induct new and young faces. Number of young faces has been significantly increased in the CWC.
Even though Kharge has not been able to effect significant enhancement in diversity in the CWC, in terms of age and social groups, internal democracy and the spirit of friendly contests has been restored, personal bitterness has been forgotten that has been generated during organisational elections, and even Kharge’s opponent in the presidential election found its place in the CWC. This spirit must be carried forward from top to bottom in the party to avoid groupism and infighting within the party that has resulted into the present woes of the Congress.
The goal set in the Udaipur session for truly social representation has crudely been met, while the permutation and combination of the entire structure is not evenly balanced. For example, when all invitees in the CWC is taken into consideration, one can find a tilt towards upper castes and minorities. It may not go well with several sections of the society, even though, if we exclude the invitees, half of the CWC members are from Scheduled Castes (SCs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), minorities, and women. This is obviously an anomaly in the permutation and combination of all sections of the society, which the party needs to address as soon as possible.
Election bound states by the end of 2023 seem to have been a major consideration. An OBC leader Tamradhwaj Sahu of Chhattisgarh has been given due responsibility. Bringing Sachin Pilot and a tribal leader Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya from Rajasthan into CWC was perhaps intended to give free hand to CM Ashok Gehlot, while limiting the damage from continued infighting in the state. Regional sensitivities and Gandhi family loyalists have also been taken care of. Even though fresh discontent cannot possibly be ruled out.
CWC now must keep the three-fold tasks before it – to take on PM Modi led BJP in the forthcoming state elections by the end of 2023 and general election 2024, it has to play a greater role in opposition politics, and maintaining its own political importance in the country. (IPA Service)