The Congress high command has appointed Girish Chodankar as the president of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC). Chodankar’s appointment suggests that the high command has followed its commitment to give responsible positions to younger party men. However, a lot will depend on the composition of his team that would be appointed in the near future. With this appointment, the stage has been set for renewed efforts for makeover of the party, which has failed to live up to the expectations of its cadres and voters. For Chodankar, who has been with the party for 28 years in various capacities, the elevation is a reward for loyalty and good track record. He was named All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary in charge of National Students Union of India (NSUI), in which position he reported directly to Rahul Gandhi before he became Congress president. Given the fact that Congress is a faction-ridden party, the new GPCC president will have to use all his skills, experience and expertise to bring the party men together to prove his acumen. The first task that Chodankar would have to deal with is building bridges with the Congress legislature party, some of whose members had expressed reservation over his candidature for state party chief’s post.
Chodankar, who is expected to assume office on May 2 after participating in the Jan Aakrosh rally to be held in Delhi on April 29, acknowledges that the biggest challenge before him is to unify and strengthen the party organisation. His seven-year stint in Delhi as NSUI in-charge and experience of handling various responsibilities should help him to an extent in dealing with the challenges. He has promised to reach out to the people to build larger support for the party. The makeover of the party will not be easy, and he will need both directness and diplomacy to take the seniors and juniors along. In recent years, the Congress has lacked solid unity on various issues, with seniors not participating in the activities or making statements contrary to the stand of the party. It has to be seen how he balances the interests and pressures of both the younger and senior members of the party. This would be put to test when he selects members of his team.
The grand old party has suffered for lack of decision making in the state, which is evident from its failure in revamping the party organisations. Failure to take the crucial decision at the appropriate time after last election on the issue of leadership created such a pathetic situation that the party failed to form a government despite having won the largest number of seats. GPCC members continue to be the same ones who were appointed in 2013 when John Fernandes was the president. Though Luizinho Faleiro succeeded Fernandes in 2014, he chose not to change his team. The almost three-year term of Faleiro’s ended without any changes to the team of GPCC office bearers as also the executive committee, except a few nominal ones. Shantaram Naik, who succeeded Faleiro, too continued with the old team, except for making one of his trusted lieutenants a principal general secretary, a post that did not exist in the party. Those at the helm of affairs preferred not to hurt senior leaders who showed not much interest in strengthening the party, and nor the office bearers who failed to deliver. Will Chodankar show courage and pick up his own team or will he prefer to follow his predecessors?
Chodankar is considered a hardliner. His statement some time ago that he would not mind Congress sitting in opposition earned him the ire of party legislators. He, however, appears to have had a change of heart after his elevation as he declared that he would work for the restoration of the public mandate for the party at the next elections. He says Congress is open to the idea of forming a government if the parties now in government in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party government decide to come out and join hands with the Congress. This statement is obviously meant to please members of the Congress legislature party who support that line of politics. Chodankar’s task is to rebuild the party, especially in constituencies where it has lost cadres. With the parliamentary elections less than a year away, Chodankar needs to put his acts together to make the party strong enough to throw a challenge to the BJP. It is not going to be easy for him as he will need to act with tact while he takes tough timely decisions.