October 21, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether Mallikarjun Kharge can help revive the Congress party. We also look at the gift of scooters to students in Assam, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Mallikarjun Kharge As Congress President – Change Of Fortunes For The Party?
The word change is often interpreted in many ways – change is inevitable, and it’s the only constant. People and organisations are sometimes resistant to change. In politics, change, perhaps categorised as progress, can be slow going, especially when entities have operated a certain way for a long time.
As Congress elected a new president in Mallikarjun Kharge, something has definitely changed. It now has a new leader. As the party tries to claw its way back to electoral success, Kharge has his work cut out. He’s taking on the formidable machinery that is the BJP. But does he represent enough of a change to reverse the party’s fortunes?
After a relatively short campaign to see who would become the new president of the Congress, Mallikarjun Kharge emerged on top, easily defeating his opponent Shashi Tharoor. Controversies aside, he now has to unite the party and put them on the road to success.
This is the first time in more than two decades that the party had a contest for the new president. Kharge replaces Sonia Gandhi, the party’s longest-serving president. How does the election process work to elect the Congress president? The process itself is governed by Article XVIII of the party constitution. The last time an election like this happened was in 2000. Jitendra Prasad lost to Sonia Gandhi. Before that, Sitaram Kesri beat Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot in 1997.
Block Congress Committees elect delegates to the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC). The PCC then elects delegates to the AICC. The party’s electoral college has about 9,000 delegates who are eligible to vote. The election happens at the PCC headquarters of each state. The candidate with the highest number of votes wins.
Kharge won 85% of the votes. He won almost 7,900 votes, nearly eight times that of Tharoor’s tally. Kharge is a veteran of Indian politics. The 80-year-old is a nine-term Karnataka MLA and was seen as the establishment candidate, given his closeness to the Gandhis. He’s no stranger to the party, as his journey began in 1969. His political rise has been steady since his beginnings as a union leader in his home district of Gulbarga.
The elections came at an interesting time. The party is in the middle of its highly publicised Bharat Jodo Yatra. Kharge’s victory comes at a crucial time for the party. Assembly elections are coming up in states like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The party is currently in power only in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Both states head to the polls next year.
VIEW: A veteran hand is needed
Much has been made about Kharge being the establishment candidate. But all that means is he has experience. The experience necessary to bring some order to a party that desperately needs it. He’s a veteran of the party and Indian politics. He’s served as leader of the opposition in Karnataka. For all the talk of him being close to the Gandhis, some state units and leaders still yearn for their leadership. Kharge could be a bridge.
In his first remarks after victory, he said all the right things – calling for a collective approach and saying everyone is equal. He clearly laid out the dangers Indian democracy faces with the BJP in power. There are multiple power centres within the party. His record as a consensus man in Karnataka politics could come in handy in keeping the party united. That takes clarity and some pragmatism.
When it comes to his electoral prowess, he bucked the trend in the 2014 elections in Karnataka. He won from Gulbarga by more than 74,000 votes. Despite his loss in 2019, he didn’t let it phase him. He has legislative experience as well. He served as Union Cabinet Minister for Labour and Employment, Railways, Social Justice, and Empowerment in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government. Throughout all this, he’s managed to keep himself out of the spotlight for the right reasons.
COUNTERVIEW: Is it much of a change?
While it’s healthy for a party to have a democratic contest to elect its leader, the Congress didn’t exactly cover itself in glory. Tharoor’s team spoke of irregularities on voting day in Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest number of PCC delegates. The party needs to look into it. It’s the last thing the party needs when it’s trying to reestablish a national footprint.
Tharoor was clearly the underdog going in. While Kharge certainly has a lot of experience on his side, including the Gandhis, it seems. This has been one of the central issues, not just in this contest, but of the party in recent years. Even though a non-Gandhi leader is at the helm, their grip on the party is unlikely to looses with Kharge in charge. It only gives the BJP ammo on dynasty politics.
The BJP and Congress differ in many ways. Here’s one – the average age of the Congress Working Committee is 68. There’s no one below the age of 50. It’s sort of a musical chairs situation for central and state offices for the Congress. For a party in a crisis like Congress, there needs to be structural change.
- Explained: How the Congress president is elected – Deccan Herald
- Congress Presidential Election: Voting Process Explained In 5 Points – NDTV
- Mallikarjun Kharge is Cong prez; immediate task Himachal, Gujarat elections – The Tribune
- Solillada Saradara” Mallikarjun Kharge’s journey from a union leader to the supreme Congress post – Economic Times
- Mallikarjun Kharge Is Wearing a Crown of Thorns but May Be Ideal To Lead the Congress – The Wire
- A bet on the do-or-die spirit of a non-Gandhi – Mint
- New Congress chief: Kharge at the helm, but Gandhis unlikely to loosen grip – The Tribune
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Mallikarjun Kharge as the new Congress President is a boost for the party.
b) Mallikarjun Kharge as the new Congress President won’t change much for the party.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Diarrhoea to dermatitis—you can’t translate MBBS language. It isn’t just in English
For the Left:
West Bengal Rampage: Is TMC Government Sowing the Seeds of India’s Partition in 21st Century?
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Fine for bursting crackers (Delhi) – The Delhi government has announced that a fine will be imposed on those who are found bursting crackers in the national capital. A fine will also be levied on those who are involved in stockpiling, production, and online and offline selling of crackers. Additionally, the state government banned the production, storage, and distribution of firecrackers to curb pollution levels in the city.
Why it matters: Gopal Rai, the Delhi Environment Minister, stated that a penalty of up to ₹5000 and imprisonment of three years will be imposed under the Explosive Act on those found involved in the production of firecrackers. ₹200 and 6 months imprisonment can be imposed on those who burst firecrackers. The ‘Diye Jalao-Patakhe Nahin’ Campaign will begin to create awareness among people.
Govt to provide scooters to meritorious students (Assam) – The Assam government has decided to provide scooters to 35,800 meritorious students who have passed the Higher Secondary (Class 12) examination this year. Scooters will be provided to 29,748 girls who scored 60% above and 6,052 boys who secured 75% and above marks in the examination.
Why it matters: The total cost incurred for the scooter distribution programme will be ₹258.9 crores. Additionally, the Assam cabinet has decided to hike the monthly remuneration of Assistant Professors to ₹55,000 (fixed) in provincialized colleges.
CM won’t allow division of state (West Bengal) – West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while addressing a Bijaya Sammilani (post-Durga Puja meeting), clarified that she would not allow the division of the state into north and south. She urged residents to abstain from instigations intended to create law and order situations. She referred to her development projects as a bid to strengthen north Bengal.
Why it matters: Leaders from a section of the BJP cited a lack of development in the north Bengal region as the basis for the demand to make a Union Territory (UT) comprising districts in north Bengal. CM Banerjee reiterated that she would not allow the separation of the two regions.
Mobile app to book taxis coming soon (Goa) – The Goa government is likely to introduce a centralized mobile application for hailing taxis in the state. It also said that it would consider inputs from taxi associations before developing the app.
Why it matters: The aim of developing this application is to bring all taxi drivers and operators under one umbrella. The platform will allow tourists and frequent travellers to commute around the city with more ease. However, private taxis are concerned as this may bring more competition to them.
New guidelines for school excursions (Kerala) – After the recent school tour bus accident in Palakkad, where five students were killed, the Kerala government has issued new guidelines for school excursions. The Education Department issued a circular banning any travel after 10 pm and before 5 am. Study tours are to be carried out only with tour operators recognised by the government.
Why it matters: A detailed report outlining the tour and details of the vehicle needs to be submitted to the police station before embarking on the excursion. School authorities must examine driving license, vehicle fitness, and registration certificate prior to the tour.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
29% – There has been a spike in resignations for companies that ended working from home. Attrition stood at 29% for companies that ended remote work.