A famous dialogue from yesteryear's villain Ajit goes like this: "Robert, ise liquid oxygen mein daal do. Liquid ise jeene nahin dega, oxygen ise marne nahin dega! (Robert, immerse him in liquid oxygen. The liquid will not let him stay alive, and the oxygen won't let him die.)"
Several Congress leaders are today experiencing a similar plight. A few of them are MPs and are looking at a not-so-bright future. They say it is tough to leave the party now, tougher to join the BJP, and they that don't know of any other alternative.
Most of the leaders News18.com spoke to, predictably, do not want to be quoted. However, a common thread was their worry that given the slide in the party and the Teflon-like popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, winning the next Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket may not be feasible. By 2024 when the next elections are due, the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya will have been completed, which means a near-sweep in Uttar Pradesh from where a bulk of MPs come. The economy could be back on track; so the other issue that the Congress could use to capture people’s anger might end up in a whimper.
News18.com did a check of some of the Congress leaders caught in a quagmire.
Jitin Prasada, once a favourite of the Gandhis, has gone down under. He is also among those who wrote the 'dissent letter', which puts him in the group that may be left out in the cold. Prasada is now carving out his own niche by floating the Brahman Samaj Paridhan, eyeing the 12% Brahmin votes in UP.
Prasada's disengagement from the Congress began when he didn't agree to contest from Lucknow -- Priyanka Gandhi was keen to see him contest from here. His future seems uncertain, and so he signed the letter. With newer people like Aradhana Mishra and Ajay Kumar Lallu racing ahead, Prasada may be forced to look for options. With the BSP, SP and BJP not on his list, his only hope is the Brahmin card, which if it pays off may help him regain some relevance that the Congress is unlikely to do for him.
Milind Deora: One of Rahul Gandhi’s close team members, who travelled with him during his visits abroad as part of his reach-out team for the NRIs. Deora is now left out and after his resignation as Mumbai chief, he seems to be nowhere. Contrary to speculation, Deora did not contest on a BJP ticket and stuck to his party. But what lies ahead? It’s pretty much dark. The NCP and Shiv Sena are options but the former itself is facing a family turmoil and will find it difficult to accommodate him. Deora shares good ties with all parties and if he is keen to contest in 2024, he may have several options.
Karti Chidambaram: While he has made his Lok Sabha debut, it is uncertain whether his father’s goodwill in Sivaganga would work in 2024. Winning from the Congress may be tough but moving over to DMK, BJP or AIADMK are no options either. The Congress has barely any footprint left in the south and the message from the BJP to most regional parties is — if you are not with us, it’s ok, but you can’t be seen with the Congress either. The problem for the Congress is it is running out of allies that suits the BJP as it brings it closer to a Congress-mukt Bharat .
The list is long. But a strategy being considered by some is being head of a party that has no presence in their state but offers them a platform for their political future. For example, if the Trinamool opens a Tamil Nadu or a UP chapter, it could give space to both Chidambaram and Prasada. But the condition is that these leaders would have to prove their mettle, so that whichever party they contest from doesn’t matter.
For instance, after the "hawala" controversy, Madhavrao Scindia contested on a Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress ticket and beat the Congress candidate. But those were past days. Not many leaders who are restless and disgruntled may be able to pull this off. But politics is about taking chances and giving it a shot. And with the Congress not looking as the best bet, many are looking around.