27 September, 2020

The Wily Autocrat

Rao centralises the decision-making process for the coming polls

The Wily Autocrat

AUTOCRATIC tendencies within the Congress are not new, but never has the decision-making process in the party been as centralised as it is in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. Since the early 1970s, successive party presidents—Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao—have acquired absolute powers, not through democratic exercises within the party as was the earlier practice, but at the cost of the party institution. So much so that Rao's half-hearted exercise to project a semblance of democracy by allowing mandatory elections to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in April 1992 was abandoned immediately afterwards as he could see in the elected members—especially Arjun Singh and Sharad Pawar—a legitimate threat to his leadership.

It is this strategy that has probably helped Rao emerge as the most powerful Congress leader with absolute powers vested in him. As he never constituted the seven-member Central Parliamentary Board (CPB) as per the party constitution—even Indira Gandhi complied with this provision during the...



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