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The diminishing writ of Congress 'high command'

The current Congress high command is a blurred shadow of the commanding heights of the Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi years
Last Updated : 27 September 2022, 02:28 IST

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Congress insiders agree that in December 2018, the party’s ‘high command’ promised Chhattisgarh leader T S Singh Deo the reins of the state once Bhupesh Baghel completed half the government’s five-year term as the chief minister. Nearly four years later, the commitment to Singh Deo is yet to be honoured. The veteran leader has felt betrayed. But joining the BJP is anathema to Singh Deo.

Around the same time, in the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, and not Jyotiraditya Scindia, was made the state’s CM. Scindia, also a close friend of Rahul Gandhi, had slogged indefatigably in the run-up to the Assembly polls. According to some, he was promised the CM’s chair. Eventually, Scindia ensured the Nath-led government collapsed when he joined the BJP in March 2020.

In Rajasthan, Congress state unit chief Sachin Pilot exerted his heart and sinew to lift the party from the abyss of a mere 21-seats of the state’s 200 in the 2013 polls to win the December 2018 elections. However, the CM’s post went to Ashok Gehlot. Pilot’s rebellion at the end of 2020 failed.

In Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the chief ministers were not the ones that the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi had wanted to install. The ‘high command’ had also mismanaged the internal party battle between Amarinder Singh and its favourite, Navjot Singh Sidhu, in 2021, eventually losing the government in the elections that took place earlier this year.

The current Congress high command is a blurred shadow of the commanding heights of the Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi years when they sacked party chief ministers and state unit chiefs at will. Add to this the Congress party’s continued cavalier treatment of past, current and potential allies.

However, many of them, like RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, have now taken to suggest that the grand old party should understand its limitations and contest fewer seats in states like Bihar. In September 2021, NCP chief Sharad Pawar likened the Congress to an impoverished zamindar, a feudal lord, who could no longer maintain his ‘haveli’ (fiefdom).

According to party sources, a Congress under Indira or Rajiv Gandhi would have by now issued show cause notices to Gehlot and his key associates in the party. But the ‘high command’ is scared it might lose another state government, and insult Gehlot, its key OBC leader when its entire 2024 plan rests around OBC leaders battling the BJP, whether its own, like Baghel and Gehlot or potential allies, like Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav.

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Published 26 September 2022, 17:05 IST

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