Many of the Congress Party’s esteemed leaders in Kerala have been active in the political arena for half a century, and it is time for them to move on.  Some of them have been leaders for two generations or more, depriving the opportunity to youngsters who have come after them. There is no doubt that most of them have served Kerala’s people with distinction and worked tirelessly on their behalf. The people of Kerala are profoundly grateful. However, time will not wait for anyone, and it is about time new faces, especially the youth and the women, better represent the emerging state of Kerala.

It has been said that life is fleeting, and we as human beings are limited at specific points in our lives. The cognitive decline related to aging is a fact of life.  The normal aging process is associated with declines in areas such as processing speed, memory, language, and certain function abilities. There is always an exception to this rule, as some would continue to be vibrant as the number of faculty is rooted in their biological heritage.

In one of the recent discussions, I heard a prominent politico in Kerala referring to the ‘Alalthur model.’ It has been in reference to the stunning victory by the young sensation Ramya Haridas who has prevailed upon the CPM fortress and conquered it for the Congress party in the last parliamentary election. While serving as a Panchayat president in Kunnamangala, Kozhikode District, she was handpicked by Shri. Rahul Gandhi, who was the Congress President during that time. If it were not for such an intervention, we might have never heard of her name, maybe forever.

What motivated the voters in Alathur to send her to the Lok Sabha! I would say, primarily because she was a breath of fresh air, a person with a humble background with her father being a daily wage laborer and her mother a tailor. She was also a singer, and people flocked to her campaign to listen to her singing and hear stories through her ornate speeches. Above all, she has proved herself to be an exemplary public servant dedicated to the ideals of the Party.

The radical changes taking place around the world are simply breathtaking. Technologies are transforming the world in one shape or another as never before. Generational change occurs in an organization or a society because of its members being replaced over time by new members with different values and characteristics. In that scenario, can we afford to sit idle and let the opportunities pass by?

Today, we have scores of leaders who are not computer literate and several who cannot retrieve their emails without the help of someone else. There is no surprise if time-sensitive communications remain unattended or responses are still pending in their inboxes. Suppose someone is unfamiliar with groups and individuals’ behavioral dynamics in an organizational setting with a highly automated environment. In that case, that person becomes not only drag but a failure in understanding what motivates people around or how they interact with each other.

Therefore, we need a new crop of leaders who are in touch with the time and ever-changing societal dynamics. However, it is equally essential that Congress selects leaders with integrity and character. If we scan India’s political arena today, BJP is continuing to undermine democracy by toppling legitimately elected Congress governments. Puducherry has witnessed the latest fiasco as Congress MLAs were jumping ship and bringing down the government. As much as we could blame the BJP for their malfeasance, much more could be speculated about these so-called legislators’ misdeeds. One of the many probable reasons these MLAs are railroaded could be the skeletons in their closets, such as corruption, illicit money-making scheme, other crimes, or misdemeanors. There is extraordinarily little doubt that BJP has successfully exploited these weaknesses while efficiently employing these Central Agencies for their political end games.

Unlike BJP or CPM, Congress is not a cadre party. However, to compensate for that organizational deficiency, the Party had created several sub-groupings like Seva Dal or INTUC to be in touch with regular people on the ground level or the laborers at their workplace. Today, these sub-categories are barely existing or having little or no impact on society. The Party also had intellectuals who would theorize, write, or author books about the philosophy of the Party and others would inculcate those ideas into younger generations’ minds.

Whether it is Gandhian philosophy or Nehruvian thoughts, there were study classes or youth camps that were common fixtures across the land taught by eminent leaders. In that regard, I am grateful to leaders like Pala K.M. Mathew and M.A. John and others who have contributed so much to enlighten youth’s thinking and guide their path in service of the people. Above all, those leaders were living examples for others championing high moral standards and ethics.

However, today the politics in Kerala is broken. It is not only the great political divide that is pulled apart by competing ideologies but also by lack of ethics or morals. It is no longer the commitment to the doctrine or dedication to the cause that drives people towards the government. The election tickets are often distributed to the highest bidder who is determined to recoup the loss and make a fortune for himself and for several generations. That explains why BJP succeeds with horse-trading and especially in Congress’ stables.

We hear from politicians about the tremendous demographic dividend India is currently possessing. India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. In 2020, the average of an Indian was 29 years. Then, why is there such a reluctance to allocate 40% of the Assembly seats for the youth? They can be a creative force, a source of innovations, and catalysts for important changes in any political system. It is just a tragedy that their great potential is never fully given a chance.

Someone recently asked, “Why the scarcity of female candidates and elected officials? Are women uninterested, unwilling, or uncertain? Is the political system unresponsive and impenetrable?” It is hard to believe that the Congress party that a woman currently heads is having such a difficult time finding women candidates to run for offices! Although the Party that trumpets about allocating 33% of all seats to women appears to be paying only lip service to this whole notion of increased participation. The recent Panchayat/Municipal elections are a good indicator of their willingness to serve despite roadblocks and other hindrances on their path. The active participation of women is a matter of human rights and an essential component to inclusive growth and sustainable development. It is pitiful to see the Congress party failing to fulfill its past promises and capitulating to an ally in the coalition who refuses to field a single female candidate on religious grounds!

Although the Congress party prides itself as the champion of democracy in India, it does not seem to practice that at home. If the party genuinely wants to avoid the intra-party fighting and groupism, it is time to look at the primary system like the one in the United States to select their candidates to run for offices than all the wheeling and dealing that is currently underway. Kerala is indeed at a crossroads facing this upcoming election. The Party has a choice of listening to those inner cries of the party faithful or be prepared to be relegated to a secondary role in the not-so-distant future!

George Abraham is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and the Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA


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