22 Nov 2021  |   05:24am IST

Congress workers need to know who the boss is

Congress workers need to know who the boss is

With Assembly polls in five States approaching, Congress is still rearranging its home turf. From Punjab to Chhattisgarh to Rajasthan an also in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the problem for the party is of plenty, and splinter groups within the party are out in the open, much to the embarrassment of the Central leadership of the “High Command”.

The political turmoil in Punjab had created ripples and intensified political activity in Rajasthan. With the Congress High Command replacing Capt. Amarinder Singh with Charanjit Singh Channi as the Punjab CM, the reshuffle in the Rajasthan cabinet was expected. The Sachin Pilot camp was excited over a reported meeting between Sachin Pilot and Rahul Gandhi recently. Expectation was that after the Punjab resolution, a formula to resolve the Rajasthan rift cannot be delayed any longer as Rajasthan Assembly polls are due in or before December 2023.

Of 15 ministers in Ashok Gehlot's cabinet taking oath on Sunday afternoon, five are from the Sachin Pilot camp. There are 12 new faces in the cabinet. Those who have exited are being asked to work for the party and its organisation. With cabinet formation the six turncoats from the Bahujan Samajwadi Party MLAs who joined Congress in January last year were upset for not being given a berth in the cabinet. Reports in media went viral when all these six turncoats left the “WhatsApp Group” of the party, one after another. This means that in the 108-seat Assembly, another group within the Congress is emerging.

The Pilot faction expected that after the Punjab episode, a power-sharing arrangement could be worked out and it finally succeeded at least till now. Sachin Pilot, who was dropped both as the deputy CM and the State Congress chief by the Party after his rebellion last year, had repeatedly expressed the hope that the High Command would take effective steps to address the issues raised by him. Punjab upheaval came as a boon in disguise for the Pilot camp which gave them an opportunity to raise their voice, yet again. 

Soon after the intra-party differences in Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, an internal crisis for Congress is brewing in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. According to the report of the Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai the Union Territory is ready to hold elections in 90 assembly segments. There is a grapevine buzz that Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls will be either held along with Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Punjab polls in March 2022 or separately in May 2022.

While the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is said to be returning to India soon, the All India Congress Committee’s (AICC) interim president Sonia Gandhi is trying to avert a split in J&K. Some of the Congress leaders who are aware of the Jammu and Kashmir political movements, have confided before media that that Rajni Patil’s bid to sideline and isolate Ghulam Nabi Azad triggered a chain reaction. Patil has recently replaced Ambika Soni as AICC’s in-charge of J&K. When Patil had recently visited Jammu and Kashmir in October, she had reportedly chastened Congress workers from chanting Azad’s name.

In the meanwhile, supporters of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad are resigning in large numbers from the Congress. Numbering around 20, the Congress dissenters consist mostly of local party functionaries, former ministers and influential leaders from the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region and this is certainly not a good sign for Congress as a Party. Being a popular leader in J&K with a national face, Azad is drawing huge crowds at Dyala Chak in Kathua, Thatri Inderwal, Jammu, and Banihal in spite of the Party cadre’s knowledge that he is a member of a nearly rebellious G-23. It is a very subtle message to the Party leadership in Delhi that Azad cannot be ignored as far as J&K is concerned.

Congress leaders have confided before media persons that Sonia Gandhi’s preference for Jammu and Kashmir is conciliation with Azad instead of confrontation or purging. She is aware of Azad’s strength in the Union Territory and his rapport with Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference, which is set to be in electoral alliance with the grand old party in the past.

The issue being discussed in Delhi is whether Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi is on the same page with his mother Sonia Gandhi. Only recently, Azad had accompanied Rahul Gandhi when he toured Jammu and Kashmir in October. Till August 2020, Azad was considered a family loyalist. But his association with Group of 23 dissenters resulted in losing the coveted post of the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. At the same time Prime Minister Modi personally praised Azad for his political acumen on the floor of the House.

The movements in politics are too quick and rapid. Congress party leaders are still not clear who is their actual “Boss”, is it Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Vadra Gandhi? To streamline the Party the chain of command needs to be defined and clear. If not, then there are bound to be several splinter groups within the Party.