By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
The disarray in Congress party is the hurdle for the opposition unity though that is neither being stated by regional parties which want to fight Modi unitedly nor the Congress is ready to accept that. Unsettled leadership issue in Congress party is hurting not only that party but also the preparedness of opposition for the forthcoming elections in different states.
Perhaps Congress is the only party in the country which has no fulltime president to lead. Not that there is dearth of leaders in the party to take up the responsibility but it is the unwillingness of the Nehru dynasty to leave the leadership to any other, except the family member, is the root cause of its rudderless journey of that party. The party continues to postpone the election to the post of party chief citing the Covid19 and that sounds ridiculous as the same party choose to participate in five state elections in April at the height of pandemic but is afraid of corona to hold organization elections in Delhi. The other parties who want to make a real fight with BJP are worried at the political inertia of Congress as that grand old party neither take the lead nor it allow some other party to lead the opposition. Time is running out to form a strategy and BJP is getting time to recalibrate its strategy which is evident with the deft moves ruling party is making to retain Uttar Pradesh.
The recent virtual meeting convened by acting party chief of Congress Sonia Gandhi attended by about 17 parties is an apparent bid to regain the Congress party’s primacy in the opposition rather than finding unity in the opposition ranks. The Congress party is apparently worried about the lead being taken by Mamata Banerjee, fresh from her hat-trick triumph in Bengal, to take up the mantle of uniting the opposition as Mamata’s forays into Tripura and Assam has already saw the desertion of senior leaders from the Congress leading to the virtual collapse of party structure in those states.
Congress can’t claim confidently about the ‘health’ of its state units including the states where it is in power. The two states Rajasthan and Punjab where the party is in power the Congress is a divided house and that is an open secret with each group fighting for the supremacy in party rather than fighting unitedly to thwart the attempts of BJP. The fight to finish between Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and dissident leader now crowned as PCC chief Navajyot Singh Siddu is giving the chance for AAP to make confident foray into Punjab. The fight between Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and dissident leader Sachin Pilot is not different from Punjab. Gehlot is more bent on ejecting Pilot from the party rather than patch up with him as suggested by the high command. The way Gehlot is lured BSP MLAs into his camp and now papering the independent MLAs making the Sachin Pilot’s camp irrelevant in the Congress. If Pilot select a new course of travel that may not result in the downfall of the Ashok Gehlot ministry but it will certainly heart the future prospects of Congress in that state where elections are due in 2023.
In Manipur the Congress party chief Govinda Konthoujam recently joined the BJP and Sushmita Dev, veteran MP from Assam and President of All India Mahila Congress joining TMC reflects the disarray in Congress. The Congress party which was once unchallenged in the North-Eastern states is in shambles and the leaders there not knowing what to do, in the absence of direction from high command, are surrendering themselves to the offers from other parties at the cost of the party. The story of Chattisghad, the state where Congress is in power, is running in the familiar dissenting way. Rahul Gandhi as then President of the party has made some patch work at the time of installing Bhupesh Baghel as CM promising that post to some other leader after two and half years. Now that period is over the other group is sending missives, reminding the high command of its past promise.
The party high command facing so many troubles internally is unable to focus on any state. While the party made some nominations for the party chief posts in states where the party is not serious contender to power or where elections are already over, it is unable to set the party in order in states where elections are due. Thus the Gujarat Congress unit is without state chief and worse is there is no nominated AICC in-charge for Gujarat affairs. This was the state where Congress made an impressive show in 2018 elections and Rahul was hailed for that performance. A sensible party and leader would have put in extra attention and effort to such a prospective state but Congress leadership at Delhi allowed the drift in that state and the Congress MLAs resigned, re-elected on BJP ticket and won. Congress party is again a beginner in Gujarat where the voters think that though they are ready to vote Congress is not ready to fight. The death of Veerabhadra Singh in Himachal Pradesh has left a vacuum for leadership of Congress and there is no attempt by the high command to revive the party there.
With this kind of disarray the Congress high command of Sonia-Rahul-Priyanka are not in a position to unite the opposition and the opposition parties are not ready to work under the family leadership. This is the message the regional party leaders conveyed indirectly in the meet which Sonia Gandhi held. The tone of the recent victors Mamata and M.K. Stalin. They do not like to accept Sonia lead UPA arrangement of 2004-14 where the lady had the final say on all matters. The powerful regional parties wants more say in setting the agenda and taking the decisions. The oblique reference is the regional parties’ preference to work outside the high command culture of Congress. Subsuming the individual aspirations is the need for realistic unity among the opposition and is Congress ready to scarify their family centric party structure is the question.
(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])