Reduced to Rubble Again, Congress Struggling to Stay Afloat in Karnataka, MP and Gujarat
In Karnataka, the Congress has been firefighting 24x7 since May 23 when the general election results were announced, while in Madhya Pradesh, rumours of MLAs considering a switch to the BJP have kept Kamal Nath tied to Bhopal.
File photos of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)
New Delhi: Having lost the big battle of Lok Sabha, the Congress is now fighting for the survival of its state governments and party units across the country.
In Karnataka, where the Congress forged an uneasy alliance with the JD(S), the party has been firefighting 24x7 since May 23 when the general election results were announced. In Madhya Pradesh, rumours about Congress MLAs considering a switch to the BJP have kept Kamal Nath tied to Bhopal.
Similar crisis is brewing in Rajasthan, albeit of a minor proportion, where loyalists of Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot are battling each other in public. The party, however, is comfortably placed to finish its five-year term in the state with the BSP firm on extending the support of its seven MLAs to the Gehlot government.
In Gujarat, where two Rajya Sabha seats are up for polls soon, Congress rebel Alpesh Thakore has claimed that more than a dozen "unhappy" MLAs are going to join the BJP with him “very soon”.
A fractured mandate, midnight Supreme Court hearing, drama over ‘missing’ MLAs and BS Yeddyurappa resigning after a tense 56 hours; the Congress did catch a break in the south after a long time, but it wasn’t the flying start the grand old party was hoping for.
True to the shaky start, the JD(S)-Congress alliance has been on a slide ever since, partly because of dogged efforts by Yeddyurappa-led BJP which has made at least six known attempts to break the coalition and wrest power in the state.
On May 23, Yeddyurappa again announced that the BJP was going to form the government in Karnataka. The poor performance by Congress and JD(S), who were expecting a minimum of 10 seats but managed to win just one seat each, has catalysed party infighting. Sources close to top leadership in both parties say they were "shell-shocked”.
But the loss has had the opposite effect, of brining the leadership of the two parties closer than ever before.
"They are making every possible move to save the government. The thinking is that this government is all they have. So even senior ministers are resigning to make way for disgruntled MLAs,” said a source.
But the poor showing by the ruling coalition hasn't started a fresh round of 'Operation Kamal', and highly placed sources in the BJP indicate that they are in no hurry to topple the government either. "Top leaders back in Delhi want the two parties to finish the working coalition themselves. It doesn't want to take this initiative by itself now," said a senior BJP leader.
All indications point to the coalition surviving for another month or two till both the camps are significantly weakened. The BJP could then press for fresh elections and return to power by itself.
There are strong rumours doing rounds that more than 10 Congress MLAs might switch loyalty to the BJP in Modi’s home state. Political observers believe that another ‘mass exodus’ from Congress to the ruling BJP will coincide with the upcoming elections for two Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat.
BJP's plan is to retain both the Rajya Sabha seats which are being vacated by party president Amit Shah, who won from Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat, and Smriti Irani, who won from Amethi after defeating Rahul Gandhi.
Congress leaders and its MLAs, however, deny the speculation, saying the party is united and that they will not join the ruling party.
“Even if my body is cut into 36 pieces, I will not join the BJP,” declared Congress MLA from Jamkhambhaliya, Vikram Madam.
“People who are spreading rumours about me joining the BJP are mad. I want to tell that Vikram Madam is not on sale. I have been travelling to my constituency for the last three days,” former Jamnagar MP told News18 Gujarati.
Another Congress MLA, Shivabhai Bhuriya, also denied joining the BJP. “This is just a rumour. I haven’t met any BJP leader. I am with the Congress,” said Bhuriya.
Recent statements by rebel Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor and BJP state president Jitu Vaghani have fuelled these rumours. Thakor has already said that 15-17 Congress MLAs would quit the party soon, Vaghani claimed that the saffron party will win both the Rajya Shabha seats, though it does not have the numbers at the moment.
The current strength of the Gujarat assembly is 179 instead of 182, as three MLAs have been disqualified. As of now, the BJP’s strength is 103 and the Congress has 71 MLAs.
In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won all 26 Lok Sabha seats, repeating its 2014 performance.
The Madhya Pradesh Congress has been on tenterhooks since the moment the BJP crossed the majority mark in the Lok Sabha on counting day, with rumours rife that some MLAs may jump ship to the BJP.
Given reports of alleged attempts at horse-trading by the BJP, the party leadership has asked Chief Minister Kamal Nath to stay put in Bhopal to keep his flock together.
Following Congress' crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, it is widely believed that Kamal Nath could be replaced as PCC chief and supporters of Jyotiraditya Scindia have vehemently backed his candidature for the post of state unit chief. For the moment, Nath is staying in Bhopal while Scindia is in New Delhi amid talks of party reshuffle.
The Seva Dal state and district units have already been dissolved in MP on the directives of the party high command.
Amid reports of his government being threatened, Nath held a closed-door meeting with Digvijaya Singh at Mantralaya on Tuesday. Several MLAs backing the government, including BSP MLA Rambai Singh, have openly boasted of offers of ministerial posts and money from the BJP.
BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal, however, denied the claims. "Our leaders have only talked about internal conflicts of the Congress government," he said.
Congress media cell vice-president Bhupendra Gupta alleged that if the BJP followed through on the threat of poaching 40 Trinamool Congress MLAs in Bengal, they are capable of doing so in MP as well.
Several senior leaders, including Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vinay Sahastrabuddhe and Kailash Vijayvargiya, have in the past claimed that the Congress government can come down due to internal conflicts anytime. Chouhan, however, has time and again clarified that the BJP won’t do anything to bring down the government.
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