Standing still

The Congress's ministerial and organisational reshuffle was, at best, underwhelming

The latest reshuffle of the UPA's council of ministers and party posts in the Congress, in all probability the last before the next general election, is remarkable for its lack of strategy or audacity. In fact, observers would be hard pressed to spot the design in this rearrangement. It betrays few signs that the top Congress leadership cares about galvanising the party, or the government, ahead of 2014. There is little evidence of merit being rewarded or non-performance being punished in fact, it is almost the other way round. The emphasis is on known quantities. While bringing in new ministers and juggling portfolios, the question that doesn't seem to have been asked is: are these ministers who can bring concentrated purpose and enthusiasm to their jobs, and jog a tired government into action? In party appointments, too, considerations other than merit or performance appear to have held sway. If, in the AICC, a leader was deeply resented by other leaders in the state in his charge, he has been merely moved to another state. If elections were lost or nearly lost on his watch, he has been assigned another responsibility, not asked to step aside and make space for someone more effective.

Within this limited framework of change, the party appears to have been privileged over government. Favourites of the high command, old and new, have been given charge of important states. Ministers have been put to party work. Yet, by and large, even in the party, there is no generational or qualitative shift in the people chosen for key positions. If at all, Rahul Gandhi's touch can be sensed from the fact that several Youth Congress alumni have been made AICC secretaries, and placed on screening committees for the upcoming assembly elections in five states. This tinkering certainly does not square with his rhetoric about a bottom-up transformation of the party organisation and the system.

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