South Asian Insider
Congress can't have 'absentee' General ahead of state polls
The onus to discipline, or resolve differences, in the state units is on the party's "high command", which is a commonly used euphemism for the Gandhi family. (Agencies)- In the absence of the centrifugal force that is the party presidency, the Congress's state units are spinning out of control. The leadership, if it keeps sitting on its hands, could be left wringing them, and the Telangana efflux could find varied manifestations in other states. If not promptly doused, the bushfires in Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Karnataka could spread within, and to other Congress habitats. The crisis is akin to a joint family turning nuclear in the absence of a "karta" (provider) - or the karta playing the stepparent to a section in the family. The undivided family analogy isn't far-fetched. Remember the way the cookie crumbled in West Bengal with Mamata Banerjee's defection or Jagan Mohan Reddy's rebellion in Andhra Pradesh after his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy's death in an air accident. They are both chief ministers now and the Congress a pathetic presence in the two states. The internal crisis is a throwback of sorts to the Congress meltdown in the aftermath of the 1996 Lok Sabha defeat. It was in 1997 that Mamata Banerjee formed the Trinamool Congress with the cadre that defected en bloc with her in West Bengal. The Congress seems on the brink of an encore, with the running feuds between its senior leaders in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The onus to discipline, or resolve differences, in the state units is on the party's "high command", which is a commonly used euphemism for the Gandhi family. In the absence of a functional presidency, officebearers who operate as the party chief's plenipotentiaries are in no position to broker peace. That's more so when entente has to be enforced between such heavyweights as Punjab's Amarinder Singh and Navjot Sidhu, Rajasthan's Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, and Haryana's Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Ashok Tanwar. In each of these cases, the younger leaders view themselves as successors of the seniors they are faction-battling. The gravity of the internecine discord could be gauged from the hasty retreat Ghulam Nabi Azad had to make from a meeting to discuss reorganization of the party's Haryana unit, which drew a blank in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The local leadership's ugly blame game happened at a time it should've reunited for the assembly polls. Rival Congress factions washing dirty linen in public has become routine even in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Karnataka, where the party is in a coalition with HD Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular). The Azad episode is a reminder that nobody recognises or is deferential to derived power when the fountainhead of power is itself in dispute. In real-time terms, Rahul Gandhi's presidency is in suspended animation; the incumbent disinclined to accept the Congress Working Committee's edict for his continuation in the post.The status quo hasn't altered, nor does it exist. Even while the Congress mulls and mourns the Lok Sabha debacle, its ideological rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is gearing up already for not-too-distant assembly battles. The sooner the Congress emerges from the conundrum the better. There is an opening for the Congress to salvage ground - later this year and in early 2020 -- in the assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir, and Delhi. For that, it will have to get back on its feet. The Congress "high command" surely knows that an absentee general cannot make his soldiers stand up and fight back.
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