Sonia Gandhi wanted the panels to keep the leaders occupied with work.

 

New Delhi: After being reduced to 44 Lok Sabha Members of Parliament (MPs) in the 2014 general elections, as a result of which it failed to get even the Leader of Opposition post, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had formed seven “shadow cabinet committees” in November 2014 with the intention to monitor and formulate strategies related to crucial ministries, including defence, commerce, rail, finance, environment.

These committees were based on the British Parliament’s concept, where the Opposition party leader “shadows” each of the members of the Council of Ministers.

Senior Congress leaders like A.K. Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikaarjun Kharge, Oscar Fernandes, Ranjeeta Ranjan, K.V. Thomas, Jairam Ramesh, Digvijaya Singh, Ashok Chavan and Ninong Erring, among others, were given the mandate by Sonia Gandhi to monitor the legislations and policies that were being introduced by the NDA and “expose the government”.

Another important reason behind this step, which was inspired from the UK’s Westminster model, was to keep the senior and junior party leaders, who were dejected due to the massive loss, engrossed in work and make them raise issues against the BJP-led NDA in Parliament.

As an extension of this initiative, the Congress also launched the Twitter handles of shadow ministries. And for the initial few days Twitter handles like @FinMinIndShadow, @RailMinInShadow, @UrbanDev_Shadow, @ShadowAgriGoI, @ShadowMinOfEA, @FinMinIndShadow, @CimGOIShadow, @ShadowDefenceIn, @HRDMinistry_Shadow, which were described by the Congress as an initiative to keep the government accountable based on constructive criticism,  started churning out criticism of the policy decisions that were being taken by the NDA government.

However, six years later, there is no sign of either the shadow cabinet committees or of the shadow Twitter handles. None of the shadow Twitter handles exist anymore and most of the leaders who were responsible for the shadow cabinets are now either sidelined, or have no incentive to spend time and effort on these shadow committees.

“Initially, there was a lot of enthusiasm for this and we worked diligently to prepare the content which was given to these committees by going through Acts, ordinances, and the policy amendments that were being brought by the NDA. However, the enthusiasm started declining soon as the senior leaders started taking the whole exercise lightly. Since they showed no interest, we, too, had no reason to spend so much of our time on this exercise,” a media manager of one of the shadow committees’ heads recalled.

According to a former PCC president, these shadow committees and Twitter handles had generated a lot of interest among the various state leaders as it gave a message that the Delhi leaders were not dejected due to the loss of May 2014.

“However, this initiative, which should have become a permanent fixture, died as the party president could not make the senior leaders accountable. Once they realised that Mrs Gandhi is not too concerned about the fate of these committees and the traction that it was getting on social media, the leaders, too, stopped taking interest,” he said.