Millennium Post

Congress, a sinking ship

The UPA allies are leaving the sinking ship looking for better opportunities. The latest to do so is the National Conference. Others are not far behind as the already shrunk Congress-led UPA will soon realise. The Congress party remains almost isolated with barely a handful of allies like Muslim League and RJD and NCP.

 The Congress is having trouble both from within and outside. There is near rebellion within the party demanding change of leadership in Maharashtra, Assam and Haryana. Maharashtra and Haryana go to polls in a few months. In Delhi too, there is serious threat of desertion as the BJP is trying to form the government poaching on the Congress MLAs. After the Lok Sabha poll defeat, dissidence is growing in every state but it always happens when the party weak. The high command’s decision to retain the three chief ministers has created further crisis.

In Maharashtra, the powerful minister Narayan Rane, who has been aspiring to become the chief minister, has recently resigned creating a flutter. This was the second time he had done so after the disastrous Lok Sabha results. He now claims that he had been assured of the top post when he resigned from Shiv Sena and joined the Congress in 2005. The party has no strong leader and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is unable to take everybody along. The Congress-NCP combine has been in power in the state for the past 15 years and it will be very difficult to come back to power for the fourth time under the circumstances. 

 In Assam, the rebel minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has been leading the revolt against chief minister Tarun Gogoi has quit declaring that he will not join the ministry, as long Gogoi was the chief minister. Sarma claims to have the support of about 50 MLAs, 30 of them hardcore. On the other side, about 13 ministers have written to the party chief to start disciplinary action against Sarma and other dissidents. The high command had been dilly-dallying for long about the change of leadership and ultimately decided against it.

In Haryana, the rebel senior Congress leader Birender Singh is sharpening his attack against the chief minister Hooda. There are other leaders like former union minister Kumari Sailja who are also against Hooda. Birender Singh has declared that he will not contest under the leadership of the tainted CM. But the high command is fully backing Hooda and so he is safe.

If the Congress is facing internal troubles the problem from outside, particularly from the allies is no less. Already the UPA had shrunk after the DMK, TMC and other bigger allies left it.  It is common knowledge that the NCP has been demanding fifty-fifty share in the Assembly polls in Maharashtra.

The NCP chief Sharad Pawar was also putting pressure on the Congress to replace Prithviraj Chavan with former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The NCP is sending signals that it does not mind going it alone although it is speculated that after the polls the two may severe connections and the NCP may move towards the BJP. The recent meeting of the NCP chief Sharad Pawar with Prime Minister Modi has triggered off speculations to this effect.

The latest blow to the Congress is the parting of ways with the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir. This was expected for some time because the alliance continued more because of the personal chemistry between chief minister Omar Abdullah and the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.  The two alliance partners had been at loggerheads for long. The Lok Sabha results clinched the issue as they drew a blank with the BJP and the PDP bagging three seats each. The NC got only 11 per cent votes while the PDP got 20 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha polls.  The Congress is eying the PDP alliance after the elections while the BJP is expected to do well in the Jammu region.
The Congress has to introspect seriously for this state of affairs. The most important thing for the Congress is not only to keep the flock together but also look for new allies but nobody is ready to go with the setting sun. Sonia Gandhi put together the UPA but it is crumbling fast. With the ailing Sonia and indifferent Rahul Gandhi, allies are not inspired.

Even two months after the humiliating defeat, there are no indications of corrective measures in the Congress. The party should realise that in the ensuing elections to Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and perhaps Delhi, the party is in no position to come back and this will demoralise the workers further. While there is a point in not changing horses at the last mile, as elections are only a few months away, but the dissidents have to be tackled.

The real problem appears to be that Rahul Gandhi has not learnt any lessons from the defeat and the rootless wonders continue to hold important positions. The first thing is the party should discuss the defeat in the AICC and the CWC and finds ways to correct the mistakes. The second is the immediate reshuffle in the party. Right kind of people should be chosen to hold positions. The third is the style of functioning. The Congress leaders seem to think they are still ruling. In short the Congress has to reinvent itself to suit the new situation as the Labour Party did in England. For now, the Congress does not send any signals about revival. Continuing in the same mould will only ensure
the disappearance of the party altogether.
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