Opinion: All That Is Wrong With The Congress Rajya Sabha List

The problem with the Congress party is that it fears taking risks. It has forgotten that crises can be overcome only with bold and unconventional decisions. But apparently, the Congress Party led by the Nehru-Gandhi family is so low in confidence that it cannot see beyond loyalists.

The Rajya Sabha lists announced by the Congress sends a very depressing signal to the cadre that, at this time of unprecedented crisis, is still standing with the party. Except for a few, the list is full of Darbaris who owe their political existence to some member of the Nehru clan, who could easily be dubbed rootless wonders and who may, most likely, be the reason for the downfall of the Congress. 

After the Udaipur Chintan Shivir, there was expectation that the Congress would be a different party, that the leadership would look beyond loyalists and infuse fresh blood. But it seems no lessons have been learnt and things are back to square one.

Of the party's 10 names for Rajya Sabha, seven have been nominated from states to which they don't belong. Rajiv Shukla and Ranjeet Ranjan are named from Chhattisgarh; Randeep Surjewala, who is from Haryana, has surprisingly been nominated from Rajasthan; and Ajay Maken, from Delhi, has been given the ticket from Haryana, Surjewala's home state. This means Surjewala is not welcome in his own state. Moreover, it is evident that neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi can dictate anything to Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who does not like Surjewala one bit. This shows how weak Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have become.

The case of Rajasthan is even more curious. All three candidates - Randeep Surjewala, Mukul Wasnik and Pramod Tewari - are "outsiders". Wasnik is from Maharashtra and Pramod Tewari is from UP. As expected, there are murmurs in the state unit.

Surjewala is a close confidant of Rahul Gandhi. Pramod Tewari has apparently been cleared by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Wasnik, it seems, has been rewarded for defecting from the G-23 to the Sonia Gandhi camp. What is completely forgotten is that in Rajasthan (elections next year), the Congress is sitting on a political volcano that can erupt any time. Rebels led by Sachin Pilot are upset with the leadership as their demand to replace Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and install their leader has not been met. The Rajya Sabha election was a good opportunity to accommodate rebels. That is important to do - something that the BJP has wised up to. Modi and Amit Shah, who had been trying to marginalise Vasundhara Raje Scindia, have realised that without her the BJP can't defeat the Congress. So, they have made efforts to mollify her.

Imran Pratapgarhi is another curious case. He is a known poet and popular with a section of the Muslim community and belongs to UP. He contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Of course, he lost badly but now he has been accommodated from Maharashtra. Party spokespersons like Pawan Khera and Nagma publicly expressed their anger on Twitter. Pawan Khera is one of the Congress's better spokespersons and he is very aggressive while countering BJP leaders in TV debates. Had he been rewarded with a Rajya Sabha nomination, it would have sent out a positive message. It would have certainly boosted the confidence of spokespersons like him because these days, it is not easy to defend the party when the entire TV ecosystem is brazenly hostile to it. I don't know what influence Imran Pratapgarhi wields in the Muslim community but people like Khera must feel demoralised.

At the Udaipur meet, the Congress had resolved to reserve 50% seats in the organisation for SC/ST/OBC/minorities. This was considered a good move as the Congress, which once ruled the country with a solid vote bank of Brahmin, Dalits and minorities, is now left with only 19% votes. If the Congress dreams of ever bouncing back in national politics, it not only has to rediscover its old social base, but it also must search for a new one. The BJP, led by Modi, discovered in 2014 that to win elections nationally it has to discover new social forces in UP. 

Amit Shah did social engineering, and a new OBC-Dalit pattern was stitched. The results were spectacular. The BJP since been consciously working with non-Yadav and non-Jatav communities; their leaders are rising from the ranks.

In UP, the BJP leadership showed confidence in Baby Rani Maurya and Keshav Prasad Maurya. Now they are among the frontline leaders of the party in the state. The BJP has been careful with its Rajya Sabha picks too. It has nominated Baburam Nishad, Sangeeta Yadav, Mithilesh Kumar (Dalit) and K Laxman (OBC) from UP, Shambhu Sharan Patel (OBC) from Bihar and Kavita Patidar (OBC) and Sumitra Valmiki (Dalit) from Madhya Pradesh.

If the BJP can drop leaders like Prakash Javadekar, OP Mathur, Dushyant Gautam, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Shiv Pratap Shukla, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Syed Zafar Islam, the Congress could have done the same. One can argue that Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma were dumped, but they paid the price for rebelling against the Gandhis. 

It was a golden opportunity for the Congress. Alas, it missed, again. It shows the party lacks not only fresh ideas but also the courage to think out of the box. Sad.

(Ashutosh is author of 'Hindu Rashtra' and Editor, satyahindi.com.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.