'To be or not to be,' is the dilemma of a being in a flickering Congress

Just when the Congress central leadership proudly patted their back, that they have finally tackled the festering situation in the border state of Punjab by manoeuvring a change of guard, the president of the Pradesh Congress Committee, former cricket Navjot Singh Sidhu thew a spanner or should we say he bowled a googly.

As dubious as he is known to be, he resigned, sending the party in such an unpredictable turmoil and shock that it will most certainly need some time to recover and absorb what happened and contemplate on what to do next. The state is heading for assembly election in just a few months and rather than focusing on the preparations, the party is now in a quandary.

The first one to instantly comment, "I said so," was the former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh who has been sulking big time after being replaced by a Dalit, Sikh CM, Charanjit Singh Channi. Singh always thought he was indispensable for the party in Punjab and would never be forced to retire. After all he and his family have been Gandhi loyalists for decades, in fact, he was close to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi even before the latter entered politics. 

The strong whispers in his camp say that he is in touch with, of course, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which has welcomed most Congress leaders since it came to power in its fold than from any other party.

To a great extent the decision of party leadership, or as Kapil Sibal a leader of the "G-23" (a group of 23 party dissidents) today said in the absence of a regular President whoever else is deciding, was a disaster in the making. 

Not only is it well-known but in the run-up to his appointment as the state party chief, over a dozen Congress seniors had warned the Gandhis' that Sidhu is a loose cannon, he is an unpredictable or uncontrolled person who is liable to cause unintentional damage. And he has done it today. 

A former veteran Congress leader and former Union Minister of State who himself has been contemplating switching sides for some time said that the party is acting as if it is suffering from selective amnesia. He said, "Have they not seen how he bombed his own team captain Azharuddin when he was a cricketer and while being in BJP he revolted and left. That is why even Aam Admi Party has been wary of him. Why has the Gandhis' buried their neck in sand?" 

As the events unfolded it is apparent that not only has Congress lost a strong and senior and seasoned leader like Singh, it has now also lost Sidhu, who for whatever 'reality show' charm he has, was anointed as the head of the state party just a few weeks ago.  

Sibal repeated a pertinent point on behalf of G-23 that they have been consistently making, "Call the meeting of the highest decision-making body of the party and appoint a regular president to lead the party." He lamented that the exodus of very senior and popular leaders from the party had harmed the party and before it is too late its the party cader who have to take note and take action.

Sibal and the concerns of his dissenting colleagues are not unfounded, and the fact is known to everyone in the country and internationally that the grand old party, Congress is imploding from within.

The veteran Congress leader reiterated what has been an open secret. He says, "The party is plagued with rampant factionalism not only in the central leadership but at every level right down to a small block and there are numerous divisions and subdivision. There is no direction. For heavens' sake if you cannot take this responsibility then just step out the scene and let the party leaders decide who can lead from the front."

Congress leaders jumping ship and getting plum posts, cabinet ranks and key ministerial berths strongly entice those who are still holding on to their dear ethics and values or what is more famous in Congress, the 'ideology' of secularism. However how long can one clutch on to the mere ideology, when the leaders they eulogize and look up to - switch over just at the drop of a hat? 

And they are in hundreds. An analysis of election affidavits of 443 MLAs and MPs who switched parties and recontested polls in the past five years show that out of the 405 MLAs across the States who quit and switched parties, 42% were from the Congress.

Clearly 'Ideology' has gone for a toss, survival is has become the key. So it would be a little surprise if Captain Amarinder Singh announces joining BJP in a day or two and he will be given a plum ministerial berth. Considering that BJP is facing flack for the contentious Agri laws in Punjab, would it be the agriculture ministry? One never knows.

To be fair, it is not that BJP does not face dissident from its party members, it is a phenomenon that plagues almost all political parties, BJP leaders and legislators jumping ship in West Bengal in recent times is the proof, however, they are quick to address it in such a fashion that things are taken care of quickly and systematically.

To tackle dissent, they have done a lot of reshuffling, inducting new faces in the Union as well as in states cabinets and have changed leadership in many states in past as well as in recent times. 

In the run-up to the elections in many states, just in the past 6 months, they have changed four CMs and those include big leaders like Yediyurappa in Karnataka and Vijay Rupani in Gujarat. In Uttrakhand, they did it twice, yet the cadre has stuck with the flock and remains united, unlike Congress where the voices of rebellion start almost immediately. 

How long can Congress survive without a full-time president as it struggles with crises in a handful of states where they still have power. "More than full-time President the question is shouldn't Congress need a serious leader and not the one who works on whims and fancies," sums up the party veteran strongly emphasizing the fact that the departure of Rahul Gandhi as the party's president after the defeat in the Lok Sabha elections defeat has left everyone in the party in a lurch.

Meanwhile, as the party flickers, the big question plaguing party cadre across the country, who are clueless about what will happen with their leaders the next day, the big question is,  'to be or not to be,' in Congress.


  • Rommel Rodrigues
    Rommel Rodrigues

    Rommel is our Editor. He has close to three decades of experience in leading publishing houses including, Fortune India, Observer of Business & Politics, The New Indian Express etc.

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