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'Bharat Jodo' But 'Party Todo'? From Punjab, Karnataka to Now Rajasthan, Congress Falls Like a Pack of Cards

By: News Desk

Edited By: Apoorva Misra

News18.com

Last Updated: September 26, 2022, 14:24 IST

New Delhi, India

From Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana to now the desert state, the Congress is finding it extremely difficult to keep its flock together. (PTI File)

From Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana to now the desert state, the Congress is finding it extremely difficult to keep its flock together. (PTI File)

In Rajasthan, the undercurrents between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot came to the fore once again when Gehlot decided to throw his hat in the ring for the Congress chief elections

The Rajasthan rumblings are not a new headache for the Congress. The Grand Old Party, bruised by a string of electoral defeats, is no stranger to internal politics weakening its foundations in states across the country. From Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana to now the desert state, the Congress is finding it extremely difficult to keep its flock together. The over-reliance on the Old Guard, unstoppable victory march of the BJP behemoth and younger leaders moving to greener pastures have further pushed the party into a state of flux from where recovery seems arduous.

In Rajasthan, the undercurrents between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot came to the fore once again when Gehlot decided to throw his hat in the ring for the Congress chief elections. The party too had thought this would resolve the power tussle between the leaders — with Gehlot in Delhi and Pilot handling the reins in Rajasthan — but a section of MLAs threatened to resign if Pilot was elevated to the post. Part of the Gehlot camp, the MLAs said they were not kept in the loop about his Delhi ambitions and questioned if a leader who tried to engineer the government’s fall in cahoots with the BJP should get the top post. Pilot supporters have also upped the ante, saying the young turk should get his due.

As the Rajasthan drama plays out, News18 takes a look at other states where implosions have either rocked the Congress boat or skirmishes threaten to trigger a revolt any day:

Punjab: Capt Amarinder Singh vs Navjot Singh Sidhu

Undoubtedly, this was the clash of the titans for the Congress. Old warhorse Captain Amarinder Singh and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu were involved in a bitter power tussle during which the latter publicly attacked the then chief minister over the SIT appointed for the sacrilege case, accused him of incompetence, and the inability to crack down on the drug mafia in the state. Though the top brass intervened, it was too late to quell the discontent. With barely a year left for assembly elections in the state then, Sidhu paraded 62 of 77 Congress MLAs in a bus ride from Chandigarh to the Golden Temple in Amritsar in a show of strength. Not one to back down, Captain’s camp demanded a public apology but to no avail.

Amid this battle was also the Gandhi siblings’ distrust towards the Captain, which made them automatically favour Sidhu. As hectic parleys ensued, Singh, in a shock move, decided to quit from his post, leaving the Gandhis high and dry. He also exited the Grand Old Party, publicly lambasting the Gandhis — especially Rahul and Priyanka — for their role in destroying the Congress. An expectant Sidhu too was let down as the party chose Charanjit Singh Channi to replace Captain, ending the ex-cricketer’s dreams of wearing the crown. Soon, problems arose between Channi and Sidhu too. In yet another blow, Sunil Jakhar, who was being billed as one of the frontrunners for the chief minister’s post, announced that he was quitting electoral politics. The infighting culminated into the party’s drubbing in the assembly polls and saw the AAP storm to victory.

Amarinder Singh, who had floated a new outfit, has now joined hands with the BJP. Sidhu, meanwhile, is currently in Patiala jail after he was sentenced by the Supreme Court in a 34-year-old case of road rage.

Karnataka: DK Shivakumar vs Siddaramaiah

The dynamics between DK Shivakumar and leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah have always hogged headlines, given that both of them harbour chief ministerial ambitions. Shivakumar, who took over as Congress state unit chief in 2020, has been trying to get the house together ahead of the 2023 polls but unity in the top brass seems to be missing. While both the camps have been batting for their respective leaders, the public spat between legislator Zameer Ahmed Khan, who is batting for Siddaramaiah as the CM candidate, and Shivakumar, who appealed to his Vokkaliga community to support him, raised eyebrows in the state.

With MLAs openly backing Siddaramaiah, he has the upper hand in the battle for dominance, especially after MLAs refused to heed to Shivakumar’s diktat of calling him the ‘next CM of Karnataka’.

Recently, Rahul Gandhi, during his visit to Karnataka’s Davangere, threw his weight behind Siddaramaiah’s leadership, claiming that he shared a special bond with the former chief minister who showed “compassion for the poor and weak” during his tenure. Seeking to dispel rumours of a rift, he claimed that the Congress stood united in its fight against the BJP.

Gandhi is said to have given stern directions to the two rival Congress camps to keep their ambitions in check and urged them not to discuss internal matters and leadership conflicts on public platforms, The Wire reported.

Madhya Pradesh: Kamal Nath vs Jyotiraditya Scindia

In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress loss was the BJP’s gain. The power tussle between then chief minister Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia reached a crescendo when Scindia claimed that his views were being ignored. The young leader said he had repeatedly flagged his concerns about the state government’s failure to implement the party manifesto or pre-poll promises but the central leadership as well as Nath remained indifferent.

What worsened the issue further was when Kamal Nath, who had been holding a dual charge in the state – as chief minister and Pradesh Congress Committee president — asked the Congress leadership to appoint a new chief. As the name of former Lok Sabha member from Guna, Scindia — who lost the Lok Sabha election — came up, leaders from various power groups began vying for the post.

Sickened by the power play, Scindia had given an ultimatum to AICC to select him as state Congress president or else he would seek an alternative. He came through on his promise when he quit the Grand Old Party with 22 MLAs, plunging the Nath government into a crisis, and joined the BJP. Short of a majority, Nath announced his resignation on March 20, 2020, and Shivraj Singh Chouhan took oath as the MP chief minister for the fourth time.

Chhattisgarh: TS Singhdeo vs Bhupesh Baghel

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel’s post was challenged by TS Singhdeo, Chhattisgarh’s health minister, who despite several interventions by the top brass is still hoping for a ‘final decision’ on the CM’s chair. Just as the Congress seemed to heave a sigh of relief, Singhdeo rekindled the controversy, saying: “I won’t be able to tell some things, at least today, but there were some discussions. And there has not been any final decision yet on the issue. The 2.5-year formula is ancient talks now. We have almost come to 3.5 years. Whether change will happen now or not is the decision to be made by top leaders. However, I don’t think it will be delayed anymore.”

Singhdeo was reportedly referring to December 2018, when the Congress government won 68 of 90 assembly seats. The party leadership had arrived at a two-and-a-half-year power-sharing formula between Baghel and Singhdeo, he claimed.

Puducherry: V Narayanasamy vs Kandasamy

The Congress faces yet another test in Puducherry where former chief minister V Narayanasamy and former minister and senior leader Kandasamy are at loggerheads. Last month, cadres demanded the removal of current Pradesh Congress Committee president AV Subramanian, who is close to Narayanasamy. AICC observer in-charge of Puducherry Dinesh Gundu Rao was present at the party state headquarters when the cadres “shouted on each other", news agency IANS reported.

The Congress was weakened in Puducherry after several leaders crossed over to the BJP, including A Namassivayam, the current Puducherry home minister. N Rangasamy, also an old Congress leader, had broken away from the party and formed his own regional outfit, All India NR Congress (AINRC), and is sharing power with the BJP.

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