Cong in death wish

As the party apparatchik continue to live in denial mode, several states have been witnessing desertions and intense turf war.

Marcellus, Shakespeare’s character in Hamlet, had prognosticated that all is not well at the top of the political hierarchy and that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Horatio responded saying “Heaven will direct it”.  

The Indian National Congress is in analogous situation and what is worse - there is no sign of Heaven directing it.  

For Sonia Gandhi, the clock has turned a full circle. Between 1996 and 1998, the party headed by late Sitaram Kesri had witnessed mini mutinies with several top leaders quitting the party protesting his style of functioning. In March 1998, assisted by the high-powered Congress Working Committee, Sonia took the reins after ousting Kesri to stem the exodus. 

Sixteen years later, the party is staring at a somewhat similar situation. What options do the Gandhis have? Will Sonia be able to rise from the ashes again or will another saviour emerge from the gathering clouds? Since 2010, the party has been hurtling from one crisis to another and yet there is no hint of any will to go in for drastic course correction. It is business as usual as though the party is gripped by a death wish.

The devastating electoral rout notwithstanding, top leaders including Sonia and Rahul continue to be in a state of confusion and dithering. No heads rolled because this was an election directly managed by the Gandhi scion. 

If major structural changes including an AICC reshuffle was expected, that did not take place. The buzz now at the party headquarters is that a major organisational revamp will be effected after the upcoming elections in the four states.

But time is running out. As the party apparatchik continue to live in denial mode, several states have been witnessing desertions and intense turf war. The situation could take a worse turn if the Congress performed dismally in the ensuing assembly elections. 

As the party is battling a host of ghosts, books of Natwar Singh and Sanjay Baru have sought to puncture the enigma of Gandhi family and the “righteous” image of Sonia, further eroding the credibility of the dynasty.   

The income tax fraud case slapped against Sonia and Rahul in the National Herald newspaper (now defunct) property case has added another unsavoury episode to the unenviable family saga. 

Compounding the woes, the party is now facing severe fund crunch adversely impinging on its election campaign.
 Twin demons

In a key state like Maharashtra, it is fighting the twin demons of 10 years of anti-incumbency and intense factional wars. Narayan Rane recently resigned from the cabinet demanding replacement of his bête noire and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. 

Rane had even threatened to quit the party if Chavan is not removed, but is lying low as his plans of joining the BJP has been scuttled by the Shiv Sena. “I don’t want to be a partner in defeat in the assembly polls. That is why I have quit,” Rane told reporters recently attesting to the fact that the Congress is heading for a washout. 

Situation is even worse in Haryana. As many as nine top state leaders including state ministers have revolted against chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. While four of them joined the BJP, two others are testing waters. 

Last fortnight, Ajay Yadav resigned from the cabinet demanding Hooda’s sack. Earlier, Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh quit, but his resignation is yet to be accepted by the party. Four-time MP Avtar Singh Bhadana who resigned a few days ago is negotiating with the INLD. Dalit leader and former Union minister Kumari Selja and Kiran Choudhary (state minister) are also gunning for Hooda.

Trouble is brewing in Assam also where senior minister, Hemanta Biswas Sarma, has resigned from the cabinet protesting continuance of chief minister Tarun Gogoi.  Sarma, who has been gunning for the 83-year-old Gogoi, claims the support of 38-odd MLAs. The high command is at a loss – whether to sack the CM or not. The only saving grace is that elections are two years away.

The party is in a bind. It is too late in the day to change the CMs as elections are round the corner. And in any case the party is unlikely to win with or without them at the helm. 

All is not well in J&K either. Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Union minister Karan Singh joined the Peoples Democratic Party last week. Former Lok Sabha MP Lal Singh has also quit the party. 

Though there is no revolt in Jharkhand, the JMM-Congress-RJD  coalition is facing tough fight from a resurgent BJP. The saffron party has got a shot in the arm recently as seven MLAs of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha has agreed to join it. 

Delhi could also be heading for elections by year-end if BJP decides against forming a government with turncoats. The eight Congress MLAs, who are loath to face fresh elections and are in touch with the BJP, but the saffron party is divided over the wisdom of forming a rag-tag government. 

The party is facing three major challengers in West Bengal - from entrenched Trinamool Congress, a resurgent BJP and the CPI(M). Last month, three Congress MLAs - Asit Kumar Mal (Hansan), Md Ghulam Rabbani (Goalpokher) and Umapada Bauri (Para constituency) joined the TMC. Mamata Banerjee is trying hard to usurp the remaining Congress space in the state.

Dark clouds are also hovering over Karnataka. As a corollary to a weak central leadership, factional squabbles are expected to begin afresh in the state. The anti-Siddaramaiah camp has started a covert campaign for his replacement as chief minister. 

If the Congress loses Maharashtra and Haryana, two high stake states, the party could face a bout of revolt and large-scale desertions.
 (The writer is a political commentator) 

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