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Congress dissidents playing havoc

Congress dissidents playing havoc
History bears testimony whenever the central leadership of the Congress becomes week, dissidents in the party-ruled come to the fore. After India’s defeat in India-China war of 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership became weak and the dissidence rose in states (at that time most of the states were ruled by the Congress).

Little known word “dissidents” became common in politics. Rival groups came up in the states and the target of the dissidents were Chief Ministers. The result was that, for the first time, since independence the Congress suffered a huge set back in the states. At that time assembly and the Lok Sabha elections were held simultaneously.

The situation continued till Indira Gandhi firmly established her firm hold over the organization. The dissidence virtually disappeared under her. With Rajiv Gandhi’s landslide victory in December 1984 mid-term poll, there was no question of dissidence in states. The period after exit of P V Narasimha Rao was of upheaval till Sonia Gandhi came on the scene and established her full control over the party. For ten long-years, she controlled the dissidence with firm hand.

The unprecedented defeat of the Congress in May, 2014 general elections has again weakened the party’s central leadership and the dissidence again came in the open. It could not have come at a worse time when elections were knocking at the doors in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. Even though election in Assam is due after two years, there is a powerful demand for eplacement of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

Much is at stake for the Congress and its ally, the NCP, in Maharashtra. Industries Minister Narayan Rane, who had walked over to the Congress from Shiv Sena, over a decade ago has quit the government; he wants to become CM himself. He says he was assured by the central leadership to make him the CM and it had failed to honour its promise. “I waited for nine years (to become CM) but there is no sign of the high command keeping its words”, Rane has been quoted as saying.

The question is what Rane has been doing for ten years? Why he has not staked his claim earlier? The answer is simple; now that the central leadership has become weak, he remembered the promise made to him a decade ago. Even though influence of Rane in Konkan region, from where he hails, has waned, his revolt will weaken the Congress further in Maharashtra.

Rane has yet to decide his future course of action but, it will not be a surprise if he leaves the Congress. At the moment efforts are being made to persuade him to withdraw his resignation as it is not possible now to replace the Chief Minister at this stage. One wonders if he would be amenable to persuasion. He has already gone on record saying that he was not sure if the Congress would retain power in the state.

In a direct fall out of Congress’s debacle in Lok Sabha election, senior Assam Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma has resigned, demanding Chief Minister’s replacement. His exit has brought out the leadership’s diminishing ability to keep the flock together. A majority of party MLAs – 75 per cent of the total as per one estimate -- want Gogoi to go and expressed their preference for Sarma. This was also the assessment of Mallikarjun Kharga, leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha, who was deputed by the central leadership to assess the views of the MLAs. Kharge accordingly reported that majority of MLAs want CM to be changed but for whatsoever reason, Rahul Gandhi does not want a change of leadership in the state.

Assam Congress leaders say if Gogoi continues Muslims as well as tea garden votes will be alienated in the run up to assembly election.

True, replacing Prithviraj Chavan, and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda just ahead of the assembly elections does not make any strategic sense. But there is no reason why Gogoi should be given the same backing by Rahul Gandhi.

Hooda is unfairly treated by dissidents – Birender Singh, MP and former union minister Km. Shelja. Birender Singh has gone to the extent of saying that he would not contest election if Hooda continues. Though anti-incumbency is a powerful factor against Hooda, he has little challenge from opposition parties. Aam Admi Party too is not keen to contest election in Haryana. This means AAP would not undercut Congress votes as seen in the Lok Sabha election. One has to see if the Modi wave is still as powerful as it was in Lok Sabha poll and will i be effective in the coming assembly elections.

In Kashmir, expectedly Congress and National Conference, have parted ways and announced they would contest the forthcoming assembly elections separately, thereby ending the alliance that has been in power in J&K since early 2009. Both the parties fought Lok Sabha elections together but drew a blank, with the BJP and PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) securing three seats each from the state. The Congress and NC units in the state have also been at loggerheads for years.

The Congress, which garnered 23 per cent of the vote in the Lok Sabha elections, is toying with the idea of securing a post-poll arrangement with the PDP. The PDP managed 20 per cent and is expected to do particularly well in the valley. Elections in J&K have always been interesting as the people cast their votes on the basis of latest appraisal of the performance of the political parties.
Harihar Swarup

Harihar Swarup

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