Truth behind talk of Congress undertaking a major surgery

Swati Chaturvedi
Swati ChaturvediMay 15, 2017 | 14:47

Truth behind talk of Congress undertaking a major surgery

Is the Congress coming out of its self-imposed stupor starting from 2014 - when Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed the party a record electoral defeat - and finally making some changes that will ensure that it at least becomes a contender in the political space?

While there is nothing official about it yet, as the dyarchy of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi needs to reach a consensus, authoritative sources say that the much needed change and "surgery" in the party will be soon effected, even if Rahul Gandhi is not anointed president.


A senior Congress leader who was holding an important portfolio in the UPA government tells me, "The Opposition has been reduced to one-state regional parties. So you have Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav in Bihar and we the Congress for all our pretensions of being the 'so-called national opposition' are at best a two-state party. We got Punjab primarily because of Amarinder Singh and we rule Karnataka which will be up for grabs next year. Amit Shah has created what we had in the 1960s - a formidable electoral machinery going up from booth level. Ours has withered away. I keep telling the leaders that I wonder if they ever listen. No election can be won today by just languidly waving your hand at people. You need the machinery: the nuts and bolts. It is high time that we acted or nothing will be left to be saved from Shah."

The speculated change is that, to emerge as a challenger to the BJP in the Madhya Pradesh elections, which are due next year, the Congress's most senior leader, 70-year-old nine-term MP Kamal Nath, will be sent to head the fractious MP Congress Committee.


This comes after fevered speculation that Nath, who does not have a good equation with Rahul Gandhi, was all set to defect to the BJP. Nath squelched the rumours only after he and rivals Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh had a meeting with Sonia Gandhi on the issue.

Nath's rival in Madhya Pradesh, Scindia, is likely to be made the leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, which will also signify the passing of the generational baton and ensure that his faction does not act as saboteurs for Nath.

The third angle of the MP triangle, according to former CM Digvijaya Singh, is that "everybody knows the state of affairs in MP and I will certainly support any leader of the MPCC and we will take on Shivraj Singh Chouhan unitedly. We just need to take some long-pending decisions".

Declining any Madhya Pradesh ambitions, Singh claims "I have never even discussed MP with my leaders unless asked for my inputs".

The Congress plans to take on Shivraj Singh Chouhan unitedly in Madhya Pradesh. Photo: India Today

Gen-next leaders of the Congress devoutly hope that this will signify real change and empowerment of young leaders, unlike the situation in Rajasthan, where Sachin Pilot still has Ashok Gehlot breathing down his neck, ensuring daily wars of attrition.


A senior leader tells me: "Sab faisley latak gaye hein, aur uski wajah sey party bhi latak gayi hai (all decisions have been left hanging which is why the party is also hanging)".

The only change announced so far is former actress Ramya replacing Deepinder Singh Hooda as the social media in-charge of the Congress. The cadre is restive about the lack of announcement of any changes so far, as elections are not far away and the formidable Shah is already ready with his battle strategy.

So will the present leader of the House, Mallikarjun Kharge, be sent back to poll-bound Karnataka? He has denied that the leadership has spoken to him and said significantly yesterday that there would be no CM face in the Karnataka elections, upsetting incumbent Siddaramaiah no end.

A senior leader of the party with utter disdain says: "Eventually, it's always the Congress which defeats the Congress. What is the need for such statements? We should all try and ensure that Siddaramaiah retains Karnataka. Even Kamal Nath, who has been repeatedly snubbed by the Gandhis, will need to pull off the impossible to defeat Shivraj Chouhan."

Interestingly, in Assam, which started the Congress's nightmare run after Himanta Biswa Sarma defected to the BJP after being insulted by Rahul Gandhi, the leader Gandhi was trying to protect is ready to defect to the BJP.

So is the case in Maharashtra, where some of Gandhi's protégés are in talks with the BJP. Says a senior leader wryly: "This is where I question the judgments made by my leader. The people he protects are the ones who are ready to defect. But they make excellent durbaris."

Even in Gujarat, after much prodding, the Congress is trying to put up a credible fight with some innovations planned. Gujarat may witness the debut of senior leader Ahmed Patel's son Faesal.

A Prashant Kishor-type people-connect campaign is being worked out. And, plans are afoot to rope in Hardik Patel to ensure that the "Patidars" vote for the Congress.

With Shah taking in defectors from the Congress and moving from talking about "Congress-mukt Bharat'' to ''Vipaksh (Opposition)-mukt Bharat'' and cases against the Gandhi family piling up, it is time the Congress got its act together.

Former finance and home minister P Chidambaram says: "Modi and Shah do not like any one exposing them, hence they are using all weapons of the State to attack such people. Well, we don't plan to keep quiet."

Last updated: May 16, 2017 | 16:02
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