While Rahul eyes national alliance with regional parties, Congress’s internal fissures are widening
New Delhi, Nov 2: It's a strange situation for the Congress. On Thursday, November 1, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu met a number of Opposition leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in New Delhi, and said in a press conference that their aim to "save democracy" and they wanted to bring together all non-BJP parties and build a common programme. "We will have to work together," Naidu said.
The Congress president also said after the meeting that all Opposition forces will work together to defend India and its democracy. The target of the leaders was clearly the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While Rahul Gandhi is busy finding national friends, his own party is seeing bickering
Shift the focus to another development on the same day in the same capital. Deep fissures in the Congress's wing in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh were exposed as two leaders from the state - Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia - got engaged in verbal arguments in the presence of their party chief.
As per an Indian Today report, the two leaders, who have been asked to pick winnable faces as candidates for the November 28 Assembly elections, took on each other over distribution of tickets and choice of candidates. It was even reported that the argument was serious enough for Rahul Gandhi to make a three-member committee to settle it.
Though Singh later tweeted denying there was no argument between him and Scindia, the damage had already been done by then. It is being reported that while Scindia and veteran leader Kamal Nath are in the front in the run-up to the elections, Singh has increasingly fallen out of favour. It was also reported that he complained about the prevailing situation to former party president Sonia Gandhi and sought tickets for 57 candidates who he found able. Singh though denied saying that he did not write such a letter.
For Congress to have successful allies, it has to get its grassroots organisation in place
These two instances speak volume about the Congress's problem. At one hand, the Congress's top leadership is trying to make friends across the country to take on the BJP - a move which is made more out of desperation now for another big Lok Sabha poll debacle could put Rahul Gandhi's leadership in a serious jeopardy. The Grand-Old Party is no more in a position to dictate terms in alliances with regional parties, as we saw recently in a few poll-bound states where Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati openly snubbed it.
And this brings us to the Congress's second problem and it is about the party's vulnerable internal affairs. The bickering among the top leaders of the party in Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress is out of power since 2003, shows how factionalism has deeply plagued the party and leaders do not even care to vent it out in front of the top leadership. The crisis in the Congress's MP wing in a way justifies Mayawati's allegations that the party's local leadership doesn't want to make an alliance with her. Her target was predominantly Digvijaya Singh.
The issue with the Congress's lower rungs is that the party has such deep-rooted problem of factionalism now that all the factional leaders want to keep their own loyalists happy so that they can somehow remain influential through electoral results and hence, all the bickering because none of them are ready to cede an inch. Is it really possible for Rahul Gandhi to make credible and strong alliances with other parties for the general polls when his own party has such a weak bonding within itself?
Recently in West Bengal, the state chief of the Congress party was removed because he was too adamant to negotiate with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who has a good relation with the Gandhis and whom the latter would highly require if the idea of federal front has to succeed. Is it possible for the top brass to do the same in every state to make way for understandings over alliance? One is doubtful.
The Congress president first has to set his own house in order before he makes commitment to national alliance-building. With each electoral loss in the provinces, the Congress's local leaders are getting more and more agitated because their survival is at stake. If the party is not able to make amends to its electoral journey soon enough, an implosion can not be ruled out.
But for that implosion to be averted, the Congress has to win elections and for that, internal coordination and unity have to be strong.
It's a classic 'egg or chicken first' riddle for the Congress. Who can solve it?