Congress Is Finished In Gujarat: Kejriwal

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday claimed that the Congress party is “finished” in Gujarat, where assembly polls will be held later this year.

Kejriwal’s claim came in response to a reporter’s question regarding a Congress leader’s allegation during his visit to the poll-bound state, where AAP is presenting itself as a strong contender and alternative to the ruling BJP.
Congress had alleged that the AAP government in Punjab is spending crores on ads for the Gujarat polls whereas Punjab is “on the brink of bankruptcy”.

Responding to the allegation, Kejriwal said, “Congress is finished. You should stop taking their questions. People no more care about their questions.”

Notably, the AAP supremo has urged the people on multiple occasions not to “waste their votes” on Congress.

Kejriwal has pitched AAP as the “only alternative” to the BJP in the state.

After its landslide victory in the recently held Punjab Assembly elections, AAP is seeking to expand its footprints in other states.

AAP had made its debut in Gujarat in the 2017 Assembly polls, but could not open its account.

AAP’s hopes in Gujarat have been fuelled by its performance in the February 2021 Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) polls in which BJP won 93 seats, while Aam Aadmi Party bagged 27 seats and the Congress drew a blank.

Meanwhile, in the 2017 Assembly elections, Congress had given a scare to the ruling BJP by restricting its MLAs to 99 and winning 77 seats on its own. There are 182 assembly seats in Gujarat. (ANI)

To Survive, Congress Needs A Major Split

Here’s a quick question. How many times do you think India’s so-called Grand Old Party, the Indian National Congress, has split since its inception in 1885? The answer is: at least 70 times. The splits have often been small regional ones such as when Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru broke away in 1923 to form the Swaraj Party in what was then the Bengal Presidency (the Swaraj Party was later merged back into the Indian National Congress) but also a few major, national level breakups such as when leaders Morarji Desai and K. Kamaraj broke away in 1969 from Indira Gandhi to form what would later be part of the Janata Party. In later years there have been other major breakaway groups from the INC, notably the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, which is still active.

In recent years, particularly after the Congress’ near-decimation in parliamentary elections in 2014 and the fact that it is in power in very few of India’s 28 states, speculation in political circles about a major split in the party has been rife. The Congress is in power in the states of Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where the party has majority support. In Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Maharashtra it shares power with alliance partners Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Shiv Sena, respectively.

The party’s diminishing fortunes have led to disillusionment among many of its prominent leaders who have lost confidence in the leadership of the party, which remains a fiefdom of the Gandhi family. Sonia Gandhi continues to be its president; her son, Rahul, is a reluctant heir who many believe is ineffective in either leading the party or winning elections.

As a result of this and the ensuing crisis in the party, several senior leaders–either at the national level or at the state level–have left the Congress, some of them choosing to join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party whose fortunes have been directionally quite the opposite of that of the Congress. Besides being in power at the Centre, the BJP or its alliances rule 18 Indian states and despite some recent setbacks, the popularity of the party or its leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been ahead of any other political party or leader.

ALSO READ: Will The Congress Please Buckle Up?

The exodus from the Congress actually began nearly eight years ago when the BJP came to power. According to one estimate, more than 30 leaders, many of them former central ministers or state-level leaders, left the Congress to join the BJP. Many high-profile exits happened more recently. These include Jyotiraditya Scindia who is now a minister at the Centre; Jitin Prasada, now a minister in the Uttar Pradesh BJP-led government; and R.P.N. Singh, a former Congress minister who recently jumped ship to join the BJP. The Congress has been losing people from its second rung leadership and that is a blow for the party.

The informal G-23 or a grouping of 23 Congress leaders is a pointer to what could happen in the foreseeable future. The group comprises several heavyweights from the party. There are, for instance, five former chief ministers and several former Union ministers.

One of the most notable factors is that this group has mustered the courage to challenge the party’s leadership and call for reforms. Foremost among their demands is a call for elections to the Congress Working Committee, the powerful executive committee of the party, headed by Sonia Gandhi. The Congress has not held elections to the CWC since 1998 and this has meant that it has become an undemocratic, closed-club, which is in charge of running the party.

Recently, when the Indian government decided to honour the Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad, with a national award, it set off rumblings in the party and speculation that Azad would quit the Congress and join the BJP. While that hasn’t happened yet, a split in the Congress could possibly be good for the party. For one, it would bring together some of its leaders with the potential to revive the party. Second, a strong enough breakaway faction would rid the party of the regressive leadership of the Gandhi family, which has failed at elections and at holding together its flock.

The Congress is the only party, besides the BJP, that still has a national presence, although its influence has waned. Today, however, the BJP is almost unchallenged: in 2019, the Congress won 52 seats in the Lok Sabha, failing to get 10% of the seats needed to claim the post of Leader of Opposition. With its decimation in Parliament, in the absence of a strong national party’s presence, the opposition is toothless. That is not exactly a good recipe for a democratic system.

What the party sorely needs is fresh leadership that could revive it by infusing new ideas, raising the confidence of its leaders and workers, and forging strategic alliances with regional parties so that the ruling party and its allies do not get a free run. Creating a strong opposition could be the first step towards getting back its status as the Grand Old Party.

Manmohan Singh filing papers for Rahul Gandhi

Can Rahul 'darling' revive the Congress?

New Delhi: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi  (Photo: IANS)[/caption] Within the Congress—as the hype surrounding his nomination demonstrated—Gandhi has a fawning fandom of many but things are different outside the party. Both, UPA I and UPA II, were coalitions where the Congress wouldn’t have been able to form a government had it not garnered the support of over a dozen other parties. As the 2019 general election approaches, Gandhi will have to demonstrate his ability to get the support of such parties. With hopes of winning a general election on its own akin to a fantasy, such support will be vital for the Congress but Gandhi is still far from commanding the confidence of these parties, many of which may not even accept him as a leader. Many of the UPA’s erstwhile constituents have senior leaders such as Sharad Pawar, Lalu Yadav, and Farooq Abdullah who agreed to coalesce with the Congress under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. Things may be quite different when her son is at the helm of the party. There are other imponderables. Besides lambasting the Modi government’s policies and actions (such as demonetisation or the introduction of GST), Gandhi has never spelt out his economic agenda or vision for economic development. Neither is it quite clear what his thoughts are on foreign policy. It is true that during his foreign visits earlier this year, notably to the US, he did impress with his speeches and meetings but even those didn’t provide an insight into what he visualizes as the way forward for India. Even within his party, there are issues to tackle. The so-called old guard in Congress, including people such as Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh, and Ahmed Patel could risk getting alienated if Gandhi chooses to create his own team of new faces. That could be detrimental. These leaders still have significant grassroots support—the sort of support that can come in handy if he wants to do well in elections. How he balances his ideas for a new and revamped Congress with older entrenched powers such as these could determine his as well as his party’s future. Life as Congress’s new party boss will be different for Gandhi who is known for his mysterious disappearances and short-notice vacations. There’s a story doing the rounds in Delhi’s political circles and some swear it isn’t apocryphal. Recently, after an internal meeting of the party’s leaders at his residence, Gandhi is said to have asked a senior leader and former minister: “Have you noticed a change in my political language? Now I’m fully into it (politics).” The leader, known for his candour, remarked: “Yes, but I’m waiting for your next vacation.” Gandhi is believed to have patted his colleague’s shoulder and said: “Why are you always so cynical?” // ]]>