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View: What desertions tell about the state of Congress

Wallowing in this cesspool of despair, the only new trend within the party is the wave of dissensions and desertions.

Oct 05, 2019, 11.00 PM IST
No one is also certain if all is politically harmonious between Sonia and Rahul.
The capacity to raise hopes within a party on the back foot before elections is the hallmark of a good leader. Electoral politics is cruel and party chiefs are assessed by the performance in the latest election, not glories of the past.

Fortunately for Sonia Gandhi, ‘interim’ president of the Congress, the impending assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana, besides a number of by-elections, are barely being talked about given that most consider the results to be a foregone conclusion.

Only blessed political leaders find courage to hang their boots when the going is good. When Sonia Gandhi reluctantly agreed to reassume reins of the party on August 10, few expected her to immediately resurrect the party. Given this backdrop, the spate of desertions and dissent in the Congress party was not completely unexpected. What, however, has come as a surprise is the speed at which the party is unravelling, chiefly because loyalists, either hers or Rahul Gandhi’s, are pulling in opposite directions.

In her second innings, Sonia Gandhi has not shown a willingness to crack down on her loyalists the way her son had, when dealing with his storm troopers after formally taking charge in December 2017, and even previously in January 2013 on being elected party vice-president. To be fair to Sonia Gandhi however, while her son could tell confidantes “ apna time aayega” (our turn shall come), her age and that of loyalists rule this argument out.

But as desertions or resignations from party posts of the likes of Ashok Tanwar, Ajoy Kumar, Pradyot Deb Barman, besides the several others who are awaiting an appropriate signal from elsewhere shows, many among Rahul Gandhi’s loyalists are now unwilling to wait. Additionally, there are a large number of fence -sitters all too willing to jump ship, provided there are takers elsewhere, preferably on the treasury benches.

The reluctance of the Rahul brigade to be patient stems from an absence of clarity regarding his future and if he will be willing to take charge of the party once again. No one is also certain if all is politically harmonious between the mother and son and whether the relationship between the two has not shrunk to the personal sphere with a doting son keeping a close eye on his ailing mother.

There is also no knowing if Sonia Gandhi’s decision to allow the Congress to drift further downward is a mere ploy to send a message that “only Rahul” can rejuvenate the party. After all, Rahul declared after the May 2019 verdict that he ‘sinned’ by failing to lead the party to sunnier days in the hope that other ‘sinners’ too would own up and step down. He can be thereby ‘pardoned’ only if the ‘Bharmastra’ chosen by consensus ‘fails’. If anyone finds this too convoluted a manoeuvre, let it be known this is the standard in every party in crisis. Recall the decade that BJP was in wilderness after 2004.

Almost two months after Sonia Gandhi assumed the top spot in the Congress, it is evident that it’s a halfhearted measure. Although the party has continued the unavoidable alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra, the enthusiasm is missing, most evident in the absence of public sightings of Gandhi and Sharad Pawar.

In fact, desertions from the NCP began even before the problem began manifesting in the Congress. This had an impact on the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance as tension between the two did not assume the proportions prior to Lok Sabha polls. This will result in a great advantage for the ruling combine and push back the Opposition further.

In Haryana, Tanwar’s departure may somewhat end factionalism in the Congress, but there will be little left in the party. The party stares at a washout as Haryana appears heading for a landslide. If Congress prospects appeared bleak some weeks ago, they are now worse in both states.

Although many lesser mortals in Congress may be all too willing, their peers would not allow anyone of them to become president. Wallowing in this cesspool of despair, the only new trend within the party is the wave of dissensions and desertions. Names like Aditi Singh, the defiant UP legislator, are now potential trophies for the adversary.

The party is nowhere near completing a full circle. Sonia Gandhi's loyal confidante Ahmed Patel was heard asking Haryana in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in a video now going viral: " Party gayi kahan (Where has the party gone)?" Nothing could be a more apt query. Only the wrong person is asking!

(The writer is a political commentator)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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