A family fiefdom! A party doomed?

A family fiefdom! A party doomed?

Congress adrift; GOP yet to accept the crisis it faces, ignores senior voices

It's loyalists vs reformers in Congress; attempts to reinstate Rahul as chief

Agency Report | New Delhi | 20 November, 2020 | 09:10 PM

Nothing seems to faze the Grand Old Party for it seems to believe in the natural cycle of things that someday the wheel will turn and it will be back in contention. Till then, the party chiefs choose to bury its head in the sand and allow itself to be adrift until it hits electoral land again. Ahoy! Despite its poor performance in Bihar and senior leaders crying for some introspection and review to revive the party, the Congress high command appears in no hurry to fix anything, not even its central leadership issue. After Rahul Gandhi resigned as party president last May, his mother, Sonia Gandhi, took charge as interim Congress president, pending an election for the post. But there has been no word on such an election, and a campaign has begun to put Rahul back at the helm.

The Congress on Friday said it is a vibrant democratic party and if someone is raising questions or issues about its functioning from within the party fold, it only goes to show that its style of functioning is indeed “democratic” in nature and it encourages “internal democracy”.

However, it has also categorically said that speaking in public is not good for the party.

The Congress is witnessing turmoil within, especially fuelled further by the Bihar Assembly polls and states bypolls debacle. One issue perceived to lie at the root is the selection of the Rajya Sabha candidates.

Many leaders, actually said to be a group of 23, including the likes of Kapil Sibal have questioned the leadership. However, several others have rushed to defend former president Rahul Gandhi.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said: “I will not second guess on the future but Congress workers want Rahul Gandhi as president and CEA headed by Madhusudan Mistry will decide on the AICC session and election.”

The crisis came to the fore after 23 leaders wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi for sweeping reforms in the party.

Sources say the internal crisis could be related to the Rajya Sabha elections in which senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, whose terms are expiring were overlooked, and people close to Rahul Gandhi like KC Venugopal and Rajeev Satav were nominated.

A Congress leader questioned if the party will be able to send a north Indian leader from the south to the Rajya Sabha.

While leaders like Mukul Wasnik were hoping to be nominated, however, except for Digvijaya Singh and Mallikarjun Kharge, most of the senior leaders were ignored.

Even Jitin Prasada, Sandeep Dikshit and Randeep Surjewala, who hoped for tickets, were denied the opportunity. The former two were signatories in the letter written to Sonia Gandhi.

The earlier Rajya Sabha elections also saw the revolt and exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia which cost Congress its Madhya Pradesh government.

The dissenting leaders want fresh organisational elections from block to the Congress Working Committee level to rejuvenate the cadres.

The party’s central election authority (CEA) has met twice to set the ball rolling for elections and has sought the list of the AICC members but the G23 wants that process of AICC members elections should be done first as the old system of nomination should be done away with, and the election of the party president should be done only after new AICC members are elected.

The group is pushing for elections in the CWC, and revival of the parliamentary board in the party which is defunct.

These Congress leaders are miffed with the “inept handling” of issues by Team Rahul Gandhi who are calling the shots without any accountability and giving key assignments to inexperienced people who could not take on the BJP in any situation.

After the dissenting group in the Congress targetted the party leadership for the poor performance in the Bihar Assembly polls, the loyalists have now come out in defence of the top brass, even as the dissenters claimed that they are fighting for the revival of the Congress.

The Congress has issued a show-cause notice to former MP Furqan Ansari for speaking against Rahul Gandhi. Ansari had suggested that Rahul Gandhi should have a political person with him rather than being surrounded by non-political people. “Rahul should have a political advisor rather than MBA graduates around,” he had said. Ansari’s son Irfan Ansari is an MLA in Jharkhand.

Meanwhile, two more senior Congress leaders have slammed Kapil Sibal for speaking against the party in public. Mallikarjun Kharge and Harish Rawat have attacked Sibal for finding fault with the party leadership, saying that Sibal should have motivated the party workers instead. Kharge also said that such people are weakening the party.

Sibal on his part said that he was compelled to speak publicly because there is no forum in the party to discuss such issues. Sibal had said that the party had lost the Bihar elections because of a lacklustre approach and weak media and election management.

Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, has also slammed Sibal, saying that those who have problems could join another party.

Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram too has raised concerns over the party’s deteriorating situation at the ground level, pointing out its weak organisational structure.

He had also pointed out that the party should have taken only winning seats in Bihar, albeit lesser in number.

Several Congress leaders, especially from Bihar, have been vocal on the issue. Some have also blamed the leaders from Delhi.

Former Bihar Minister Shakiluzaman Ansari had even called state Congress in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil and Avinash Pandey, the chairman of the screening committee, the ‘main culprits’.

Both Chidambaram and Sibal had also expressed concerns over the recent by-polls, where the Congress was wiped out despite being in direct contest with the BJP.

On Tuesday, the group constituted by party’s interim chief Sonia Gandhi to assist her, which includes Ambika Soni, Randeep Surjewala, KC Venugopal and Mukul Wasnik, met virtually to discuss the Bihar results as well as the bypolls.

Sources said that Bihar in-charge Gohil and Gujarat in-charge Rajeev Satav had even offered to quit, but were told to hold on till Sonia Gandhi took stock of the situation.

On the other hand, many leaders have come to the defence of the party leadership, including Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, who slammed Sibal for going on the issue.

After voicing concern over the poor performance of the Congress in the Bihar polls and bypolls in other states, Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the opposition Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) lost by a whisker in Bihar. His statement comes in the wake of the internal rift in the party coming out in the open.

Chidambaram said, “As I have pointed out the Grand Alliance lost to the NDA by a whisker of 0.03 per cent. The elections turned on 8 seats. If the Alliance had won 8 more seats, the result would have been 118 to 117 (instead of 110 to 125). Significantly, the HAM and VIP won 8 seats.”

Earlier, Chidambaram had raised concerns over the party’s deteriorating situation on the ground and pointed out its weak organisational structure. He had said that the party should have chosen winning seats only in the seat-sharing, albeit lesser in number.

But on Friday Chidambaram said the NDA is on decline compared to the Lok Sabha polls of 2019.” Even after the Bihar Assembly elections, the decline in BJP’s performance after 2019 Lok Sabha elections is visible and significant. Of the 464 Assembly segments that the BJP contested both in 2019 and in subsequent Assembly polls and bypolls, the BJP has won only 218 segments, on the contrary, in 2019 the BJP had won 392 segments,” he said.

Congress is facing an internal crisis with many leaders coming out in the open and criticising the leadership. Party leaders claimed that support for the “revival” has swelled up to more than 50, as the chorus for immediate reforms has fired the imagination of all those who want what’s best for the Congress.

The party leaders are miffed with the way the Bihar polls and states bypolls were handled by the party and recent defeats in the bypolls widened the chasm in the grand old party.

The party has not deliberated on the Bihar results as the Congress was found to be the weakest link in the Grand Alliance and missed the Bihar bus. (IANS)