A Congress-mukt Bharat (Congress-free India) is what Mahatma Gandhi wished for, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned within the Lok Sabha on February 7, 2019, suggesting that Gandhi had referred to as for disintegrating the organisation.
“Congress-mukt Bharat isn’t my slogan…I’m fulfilling the want of Mahatma Gandhi,” Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Social gathering (BJP) has popularised the phrase throughout its election campaigns throughout the nation, mentioned.
Minimize to September 2021.
The 136-year-old Congress organisation faces the identical issues — perhaps extra — that have been stalking it two years in the past.
A collection of election losses has shattered the morale of the social gathering cadre. Confusion over management and the highway forward has choked decision-making. Infighting retains rearing its ugly head from Rajasthan to Punjab. To make issues worse, 23 heavyweight leaders calling for reforms within the social gathering have dissented in public.
A Congress-mukt Bharat doesn’t look distant — at the least on India’s electoral map — with the social gathering’s political footprints diminishing regularly.
The Congress, by itself, is in energy in three states — Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. In three extra — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand — it’s the junior associate within the ruling alliance.
And it’s not simply the BJP that poses a problem to the Congress’s relevance. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Aadmi Social gathering (AAP), two key gamers within the opposition bloc, are wanting set to develop on the expense of what’s often called the “grand previous social gathering”.
What unfolds in Delhi earlier than the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and whether or not the opposition might sew up a rainbow alliance to unitedly tackle the BJP is a unique story. However, for now, the reality is Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP are hurting the Congress — at occasions badly — of their pockets of affect.
It’s no secret that the TMC and the AAP — buoyed by their election successes in opposition to the BJP in West Bengal and Delhi — need to develop. Each events know this might give them bargaining chips and assist them flex muscle tissues on the nationwide stage, particularly within the occasion of the formation of a rainbow coalition. This enlargement appears to be occurring at the price of the Congress.
Each the TMC and the AAP are wooing Congress leaders to change sides, whereas attempting to seize the opposition house ceded by Sonia Gandhi’s social gathering because of the desertion of well-liked faces.
Other than the three states the place the Congress is in energy by itself, there are a number of extra, together with Uttarakhand and Goa, the place the social gathering remains to be in a direct contest with the BJP.
It will be fascinating to see how the AAP and the TMC strategise and the way laborious they push to turn into a political various in such states. Whereas they may not be instantly ready to win energy, and even turn into the second place holder, they’ll definitely eye a bit of Congress votes in these states.
The TMC Story
Elections in Tripura are due in 2023, however the TMC has already hit the bottom operating within the northeastern state dominated by the BJP.
Whereas the Congress seems to forge an alliance with the Left — which was ousted by the BJP in 2018 — the TMC has given all indications that it desires to turn into the principle challenger within the upcoming meeting polls.
The TMC is sending its large weapons steadily to Tripura. Abhishek Banerjee, a parliamentarian and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, has been blaming the ruling social gathering for alleged assaults on TMC staff — identical to the BJP has been going after the TMC over allegations of post-poll violence in Bengal.
Because the TMC raises its political pitch, former Congress chief Sushmita Dev’s high-profile defection to the social gathering might assist bolster its northeast prospects, in accordance with analysts.
“I’m not going to say something in opposition to the Gandhis. I obtained so much from them. However I felt I might do my work higher right here (within the TMC),” Dev had informed News18.com after switching sides.
As soon as upon a time, she was an integral a part of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s core group. However lack of profession development within the Mahila Congress meant that the TMC had a comparatively simpler job to persuade her to alter loyalties.
Earlier than Dev, it was former President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhishek Mukherjee who stop the Congress for the TMC. Abhishek Mukherjee didn’t have one of the best of equations with Mamata Banerjee. Therefore, his inclusion within the TMC exhibits the social gathering may not nit-pick in inducting a outstanding face.
The TMC, it seems, is working at two ranges. First, it desires to make sure that a bit of the big variety of leaders who joined the BJP earlier than this summer season’s Bengal elections returned to the social gathering. It says it’s in contact with some BJP lawmakers; 4 BJP MLAs, together with heavyweight Mukul Roy, have already returned.
Second, it’s eyeing leaders of different events past Bengal. The Congress seems an excellent possibility in view of perceived infighting inside the organisation and frustration amongst a bit of its leaders. Furthermore, the Congress and the TMC — which was born in 1998 from a cut up within the Congress — are ideologically shut. A transition from the Congress to the TMC could be simpler to handle.
On the identical time there are indications that identification and inclusion of faces key to the TMC’s enlargement plans could be excessive precedence. An instance could be Sushmita Deb, who analysts say might assist the social gathering in Bengali-speaking Tripura in addition to in Assam.
Some Congress leaders from Delhi, Rajasthan and Maharashtra too are believed to be on the TMC’s radar. However the social gathering doesn’t think about this technique to be at odds with the thought of so-called opposition unity. “We aren’t poaching…We’re a political social gathering in spite of everything, and never an NGO,” TMC Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien mentioned.
The AAP Playbook
The AAP appears to be adopting a unique technique. A few of the outstanding faces it poached from the Congress, resembling Ajoy Kumar and Alka Lamba, have returned to their previous social gathering. In the meantime, the AAP, not like the TMC, is recruiting at decrease ranges.
With a watch on the 2022 elections to the highly effective municipal companies of Delhi (MCD) — that are within the BJP’s management — the AAP is wooing Congress leaders on the grassroots.
And now that the AAP has determined to contest Punjab and Uttarakhand, the place elections are due subsequent yr, it wants foot troopers and is believed to have been looking for choices from the Congress camps in these states.
The AAP can also be searching for a Sikh face as its chief ministerial choose in Punjab, the place an influence tussle within the Congress is out within the open. It’s in talks with some disgruntled Congress leaders for this.
“In these states, Congress leaders have the expertise that may be useful for a brand new social gathering like ours. We need to enter these states the place the Congress is in a straight battle with the BJP. Given the state of the Congress, which doesn’t appear to be in a temper to battle again, getting into an enviornment with out a number of events is extra engaging to us,” an AAP chief mentioned on situation of anonymity, suggesting that his social gathering is seeking to seize chunks of the Congress vote.
The Congress downplayed the AAP and the TMC’s overtures. “We want those that go away all one of the best, however a few of us stick round in dangerous occasions,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala mentioned.
A couple of days in the past, whereas chatting with the social gathering’s social media group, Rahul Gandhi had made an analogous pitch: “Let those that need to go, go. We don’t want them. We are going to battle again with those that are with us.”
Nonetheless, the Congress seems on a shaky floor in relation to defections. It misplaced probably the most variety of election candidates amongst Indian political events in polls between 2014 and 2021, in accordance with an evaluation of affidavits analysed by the Nationwide Election Watch and the Affiliation for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
Whereas 222 election candidates left the Congress, 177 MPs and MLAs parted methods over the previous seven years. In different phrases, a complete of 399 lawmakers and election candidates abandoned the social gathering. Throughout this era, 115 candidates and 61 MPs and MLAs joined the Congress from different events.
Compared, 111 election candidates and 33 MPs and MLAs left the BJP throughout polls since 2014. However, not like the Congress, the BJP gained greater than what it misplaced. A complete of 253 candidates and 173 MPs and MLAs joined the BJP on this interval.
With the TMC and the AAP taking an aggressive posture, these numbers might worsen for the Congress, whose firefighters will certainly have their job lower out. The most important problem for the Congress could be to maintain its flock collectively within the buildup to the 2024 elections.