Congress in fix as list of deserters grows amid polls

Congress in fix as list of deserters grows amid polls

Congress Working President and MLA Ramdayal Uike on Saturday joined the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh adding up to the list of deserters from the party from poll-bound states this year and showing the pattern of the larger exodus from the party since its worst-ever poll debacle in 2014.

Like all other deserters, Uike, a popular tribal leader in Bilaspur division, who joined BJP in presence of its chief Amit Shah Amit Shah and Chief Minister Raman Singh, did everything to embarrass the Congress leadership saying he was feeling “suffocated”

The classic twist happened in Telangana, when Congress leader Padmini Reddy, wife of senior party leader C Damodar Rajanarasimha joined the BJP in the noon on October 11 but came back to Congress by the night the same day.  But Congress has not been so lucky as far as other desertions are concerned

Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh had been making pitch for bringing back leaders who left Congress in last few years and even decades. However, barring the coming back in July this year of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister of Telangana N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who had quit four years ago opposing the creation of Telangana, no other major leader has re-joined the Congress.

At least five former Chief Ministers and half a dozen former Union Ministers of Congress have quit the party since 2014. Most of these leaders have strong community appeal and have helped the BJP reach out to new voters’ constituencies.

Clearly the Congress not being able to keep its pack together has come handy to BJP to expand its influence in territories hitherto beyond its reach. The desertions have hit the Congress from North to South, East to West. BJP has taken care of caste balance in poaching Congress leaders be it a Brahmin face in Uttarakhand and UP, a Koli face in Gujarat or a jat face from Haryana.

For the first time, BJP formed a government in Assam in 2016, opening its account in North East and the role of Congress rebel turned BJP strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma did not go unnoticed in this feat.

In Chhattisgarh, where assembly polls are due November this year, state’s first Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, quit Congress and formed a new party Chhattisgarh Janta Congress in 2016.  JCC has now tied up with Mayawati's BSP is making the contest triangular in the otherwise BJP-versus Congress battle that could help the incumbent Raman Singh dispensation.

Five-time Chief Minister of Meghalaya Donwa Dethwelson Lapang resigned from the party on September 14, accusing the leadership of adopting a policy of "phasing out" senior leaders.

Despite putting up a decent show in the December 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat, Congress saw bickering. Indranil Rajguru, former Lok Sabha MP Jiva Bhai Patel and five-time legislator and former parliamentarian Kunvarji Bavaliya resigned from the Congress. Bavaliya, who became a minister in BJP government wields considerable clout in the Koli community that constitutes over 22 per cent of Gujarat’s population.

Not to speak of MLAs and MPs, even former Union Ministers and former Chief Ministers have quit Congress and Jogi is not the only one in this category.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna quit Congress and joined BJP with eight other Congress rebel MLAs after a bitter spat with Chief Minister Harish Rawat. Congress veteran and former Chief Minister for UP and Uttarakhand N D Tiwari quit Congress in January last year while the veteran from Karnataka, former Chief Minister and former External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, belonging to Vokaligga community, quit Congress and joined the BJP in March last year.

Former UP Chief Minister (for a day) Jagdambika Pal joined the BJP before 2014 Lok Sabha polls and is now a BJP MP.

Soon after 2014 Lok Sabha polls, senior Congress leader from Haryana Chaudhary Birender Singh, a prominent Jat leader, joined BJP and is a Cabinet Minister in Modi government. So is Rao Inderjit Singh (Ahir community), who had joined before Lok Sabha polls.

Former Union Ministers from Tamil Nadu  D Purandeswari and from Delhi Krishna Tirath also joined the BJP in the same period. In January 2015, former Union minister for environment, Jayanthi Natarajan from Tamil Nadu quit the party after making public a letter she had written to the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi in November detailing reasons for her “unhappiness and disillusionment about the party’s functioning.”

 Former Maharashtra Chief Minister (when he was in Shiv Sena) and senior Congress leader Narayan Rane resigned from the party in 2017 blasting Congress for the "injustice" it had done to him and his supporters.

Some also became Chief Minister when they crossed over to the other side like N Biren Singh, a Cabinet minister in the previous Congress-led government of Manipur. He left the Congress in October 2016 and became Chief Minister of Manipur from BJP in 2017.  

But all are not so lucky. Congress’s number two in previous Tarun Gogoi government in Assam-- Himanta  Biswa Sarma left his party lambasting Rahul Gandhi in September 2015. He is now the key BJP man for the saffron party’s expansion in North East but his Chief Ministerial ambition is yet to materialize.