Double whammy for Congress: Troubleshooters in trouble

P Chidambaram and D K Shivakumar (PTI Photos)

The Congress finds itself at the real crossroads. While the party is already grappling with the problem of its key troubleshooters landing in jail on serious corruption charges, many of its other leaders are engaged in a turf war even in states, where the party emerged from a history of debacles only after great efforts.

On Thursday, the most astute media face of the party former Union Minister P Chidambaram was packed off to Tihar jail on fourteen-day judicial custody after he was interrogated for 15 days in CBI custody.

This was a day after the Congress’ chief troubleshooter of Karnataka D K Shivakumar was sent to nine-day custody with the Enforcement Directorate probing a slew of charges against him.

While Chidambaram was the one on whom the party always banked for economic wisdom and attacking and counter-attacking the government on the economic front, Shivakumar was the saviour in the field, who prevented the defection of Congress MLAs be it during government formation in Karnataka or Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. The Congress has already lost its chief strategist of Northeast Himanta Biswa Sarma to the BJP.

The first casualty of Chidambaram battling the case was Congress miserably failing to come up with a strong narrative against the economic slowdown (growth slumping to a mere 5 per cent), something which Chidambaram used to do promptly, giving the party’s public campaign an edge.

Party’s troubleshooter in Chief Ahmed Patel’s son Faisal was summoned by the ED last week for third time grilling in connection with Sterling Biotech case.

While troubleshooters are themselves in trouble, to make the matters worse, now the age-old problem of the party—the internecine factional fight has started raising its head. The trouble is in the triumvirate of Madhya Pradesh -- Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotriadita Scindia -- is back to haunt it after less than a year of peace that the trio brokered before last year assembly polls that saw Congress endings its 15-year-long exile from power in the state.

Digvijaya backed Kamal Nath in becoming PCC chief and then Chief Minister. Nath keeps holding both posts till now. Scindia, who felt marginalized, has virtually raised a banner of revolt and his supporters put out posters and newspaper advertisements asking for making the former Guna MP, the Madhya Pradesh state chief. A number of high-level meetings have taken place over it but an amicable resolution is yet to be found. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has not lost sight of the opportunity provided by this deep divide and dubbing it a “monkey fight for power,” it has already announced a 'Congress Bhagao, Pradesh Bachao' campaign from September 11.

In the neighbouring Rajasthan, the rivalry between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Deputy Sachin Pilot keeps making news from time to time. In a way, the Scindia versus Nath and Pilot versus Gehlot is the resurgence of the old guard versus the young turks war of supremacy or turf control in party-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. 

After Rahul Gandhi's exit as Congress President, the old guard is emboldened but the younger lot is in no mood to take a back seat.

In Jharkhand, its state chief, a former IPS officer and relatively younger, Ajoy Kumar quit last slamming the state leaders (mostly old-timers) with remarks that even worst criminals look better than them. Congress veterans in Jharkhand earlier blamed Kumar for wrong ticket selection and seat choices after Congress-led alliance in the state bombed in Lok Sabha polls.

In the deeply divided Haryana unit, the old guard led by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had the last laugh after Rahul Gandhi’s pick Ashok Tanwar was made to go as state chief. Though the newly appointed state chief Kumari Selja on Thursday appealed to party leaders to forget past and move forward to take on the BJP, there are few who believe that the bitter Hooda-Tanwar rivalry is over yet.

In Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had been frequently targetted by younger leaders like Pratap Singh Bajwa (Rajya Sabha MP) and Navjot Singh Sidhu.

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