Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi at the concluding session of the party's Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir, in Udaipur on Sunday. Party top leaders Rahul Gandhi, Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Bhupesh Baghel, Kamal Nath and other dignitaries were also present. Image Credit: ANI

There can’t be a more boring subject than the floundering Indian National Congress to discuss. For students of electoral politics, nevertheless, it is instructive to study the last days of one of the world’s oldest political parties.

On a chosen auspicious date, Friday the 13th, the Congress party held a brainstorming session in Udaipur. The major decisions that were going to be taken in Udaipur, were already taken in Delhi, because ”Congress sources” told journalists about them on the 12th.

The three days in Udaipur were, then, meant to show that the ostrich is bringing its head out of the sand. It was Sonia Gandhi’s way of showing that she and her children acknowledge the party is in a crisis and that they are doing something about it. The message was meant for the Congress rank and file, supporters and voters.

This is the first time in 8 years the Congress has felt the need to acknowledge reality.

But where is the declaration?

After all the talking and listening in Udaipur, the party leadership sat down to draft an “Udaipur Declaration”. On the last day, 15th May, there were news headlines and Whatsapp forwards about what the “Udaipur Declaration” had to say but the text of the declaration was nowhere to be found. Not on Twitter, not on the Congress website, not through a press release.

The media present in Udaipur were given a copy of the declaration in Hindi but not in English. When the media asked them about an English copy — not everybody can read Hindi, you know — some party leaders tried to give a smart spin. They told the journalists that the Congress had decided to put out the declaration only in Hindi to send a message to the Hindi heartland, where the party is the weakest.

This was not only obviously silly but also a contradiction of the anti-Hindi heartland line the party takes when it defends its leaders speaking in English in a country where at the best only about 10% of the population understands the language.

The Hindu reported in a colourful copy what had happened. The 8-page-long Hindi text was translated into English but there were “discrepancies” in the two versions and hence, the English version could not be released on Sunday.

Yet even this is a charitable version of events. A little birdie tells us that in fact, two separate groups began writing the text, one in Hindi and one in English, and the twain could not meet!

Who will read 4500 words?

The English translation was then released only on Tuesday, for a declaration that was adopted on Sunday morning. It is 4500 words long, circulated to the media on WhatsApp. At the time of writing this column on Thursday evening, the party had not yet uploaded the text on its official website.

If you try searching very hard, you’ll find it on the website of National Herald, a party organ founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, who could certainly not have established democracy in India if he had run such a lethargic party.

If the party’s purpose was to give a new ray of hope to its members and supporters with the “Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir”, you’d expect it to actually publicise the declaration.

How difficult could it have been to write a declaration and put it out on Sunday morning in ten languages considering the major decisions had already been decided before the leaders arrived in Udaipur?

The declaration, even if you can lay your hands on it, is 4500 words long. The important words are less than 450, about the organisational changes the party intends to make. Nobody in the Congress party has read Shakespeare’s line, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Congress leaders openly say they are poor at communicating to the masses. They say this almost as a virtue, because somehow publicising one’s thoughts and deeds is unseemly. The media should do it for them.

This attitude comes in the way of actually improving their communication skills. If they had anyone who knew anything about communication, the Udaipur Declaration would not have been 4,500 words long. Nobody reads so many boring paragraphs of empty rhetoric.

Who will bell the cat?

The organisational changes the party has promised itself in Udaipur can no doubt help stem its decline. But what the Chintan Shivir did not discuss and the Udaipur Declaration does not answer, is who will carry out these ambitious tasks? Who will execute them?

The incompetence and mediocrity reflected in the saga of putting out a document in Udaipur tells you why the Udaipur Declaration will fail: the Congress party does not have the capacity to actually execute the simplest of things.

Considering the outcome of the Udaipur conclave was pre-decided, the discussions in Udaipur should have been about who will do it? Who will ensure the execution? Who will improve communication?

If you look at what they have said they will do, it amounts to making damning admissions of how poorly the party is run. For example, it says the sessions of the All India Congress Committee and the state-level Pradesh Congress Committees shall meet at least once a year.

A party that is unable to even organise an annual session of its organisation can hardly be expected to win elections. Between Rahul Gandhi’s holidays and parties, Sonia Gandhi might want to re-read the organisation section of the Udaipur Declaration and ask herself: who will do it?