Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls highlighted the gross disconnect between Congress' centre-state leadership

The struggle that the Congress party went through to get its candidate Ahmed Patel re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat shows the disconnect between the party’s central and state leadership. Rajya Sabha elections have been an low-key affair since the numbers position is more or less settled we don't see much hullabaloo and the parties can always predict the winner, depending on the numbers each party holds. However, this time around, the entire episode got blown out of proportion in Gujarat after the disgruntled regional leaders revolted against the party and Congress top leadership failed to pacify them. This in turn created a situation that gave its political rival BJP the chance to fish in troubled waters and led to a political slugfest over the Rajya Sabha seat.

The very fact that Patel, the Political Secretary to Sonia Gandhi got votes from only 42 party MLAs out of the 51 left after the recent rebellion, says enough about the crisis within the party. Patel barely managed to scrape through by bagging exactly 44 votes needed, by garnering support from other parties.

File image of Ahmed Patel. PTI

File image of Ahmed Patel. PTI

The first blow to the Congress came just after Shankersinh Vaghela, a veteran leader deserted the party along with six of his followers. But this was not the first time when discontent among the regional leadership has led the party to a major problem. Earlier, bitter dissidence in Assam Pradesh Congress Committee led by Congress minister Himanta Biswa Sarma caused an electoral disaster for the party in 2016.

In fact, BJP rode the tide of disgruntlement among the Congress leaders to register its first historic victory in the Northeastern state, a Congress bastion.

Sarma narrated his experience with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the media after BJP won the election, "He is very arrogant. When you go to see him, it is a servant-master relationship which is disgusting.”

He also said that he informed Rahul Gandhi two years before the assembly election that the party was imploding. “At that meeting, Gandhi seemed preoccupied with playing with his dog instead of paying attention to the people surrounding him" NDTV quoted him as saying.

Defection of Sarma, was only the beginning of the landslide to follow. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, another senior Congress leader joined BJP before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, dealing another blow to the Congress. With her leaving the party, the Congress lost the claim on the legacy of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Hemavati Nandan Bahuguna, who was her father and held deep influence over the state’s politics.

Though she cited a politically more correct version of her reason to resign, but it was reported that she had already been pushed to the sidelines in the party by her rivals.

Earlier, the Congress party lost the entire state government of Arunachal Pradesh to BJP after much bickering among the party legislators, triggered by dissidence against Chief Minister Nabam Tuki led by Kalikho Pul.

The disconnect between the top and regional leaders of the party has resulted in lack of loyalty for the party among local leaders. Shifting of loyalties by Congress MLAs led the Congress to the embarrassing situation that unfolded in Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.

On the day of election the Congress had only 44 MLAs out of 51, who it was sure would vote for Patel, out of which two again cross-voted for the BJP candidate. This came despite the fact that the party sequestered away 44 of its remaining MLAs to a resort to avoid further defection. This only goes on to show that the requirement to 'protect' the MLAs emerges from the widening gap among the top and the regional leaders where the former fails to trust party MLAs.

The Rajya Sabha episode coincides with the ‘Sultan and Sultanate’ jibe taken by senior Congressman Jairam Ramesh on some leaders of his party.
“The sultanate has gone, but we behave as if we are Sultans still,” Jairam Ramesh said to the media. The gross display of ignorance by the Congress top leadership with respect to the heath of the party's regional units, which the Guajarat Rajya Sabha polls also brought to daylight, only lends more relevance to Ramesh's words.

Updated Date: Aug 09, 2017 12:22 PM

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