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Cong crisis: Uttarakhand & Arunachal are symptoms. Rot begins at the top

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:04 IST

In yet another setback for the Congress party, the Union Cabinet imposed President's Rule in Uttarakhand and placed the state legislative assembly under suspended animation. This comes after 9 of its MLAs rebelled against Chief Minister Harish Rawat and joined hands with the BJP. Only a month earlier, another Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh was dismissed in similar fashion. Orchestrated by the BJP, Congress dissident Kalikho Pul was sworn as the new chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh ousting former chief minister Nabam Tuki..

Similar rebellions are brewing in Congress ruled states like Himachal Pradesh, Manipur and Karnataka where different factions are threatening to destabilise democratically elected governments. And the possibility of BJP fanning these rebellions is not being ruled out.

Also read: How Prashant Kishor plans to deliver UP for Congress in 2019

Crisis in states, weak centre

These are not stray incidents. They beg the larger question as to why the Congress has not been able to manage factions and find solutions to keep its state governments in power. While Congress leaders are blaming BJP for murdering democracy, political analysts feel that the waning influence of the Congress high command is the reason for rising incidents of dissidence within the grand old party.

Ramesh Dadhich, former member secretary of Indian Council of Social Science Research, claims that the Gandhi family has lost all its charisma and authority over the party. Citing BJP's example, Dadhich says that family's role is similar to that of RSS which is the supreme arbiter in sorting out issues within the BJP. "BJP cannot exist without the RSS which acts like an anchor for the party. The Gandhi family had a similar role in the Congress which is largely multi-factional," he said.

"The family was the party's key to winning. But after the embarrassing defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the family has stopped delivering. This has led to an existential crisis for the Congress. The Gandhis have lost all authority and with no lingering hopes of revival, the party is bound to witness growing instances of dissidence," he predicted.

Also read: Sister's act in UP? Clamour for Priyanka Gandhi grows in Congress

Asking Congress not to cry victim, Dadhich says that Congress is facing what it has practiced for so many years. "In 1959, they invoked Article 356 against one of the first democratically Communist governments in the world - in Kerala. In 1980, under the influence of Indira Gandhi, Bhajan Lal with several other Janata Party MLAs defected to the Congress and continued as CM of Haryana," Dadhich said.

Managing factionalism and keeping all stakeholders happy once used to be the Congress's strong point. The party did exceedingly well in accommodating multiple viewpoints.

NCP leader DP Tripathi blames it on the current political situation. "Unfortunately, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi no longer command the respect that the Gandhi family once had. It also has to do with the lack of direct contact with party legislators in different states. Earlier, senior leaders would hold regular meetings with party workers. This doesn't happen any longer, which is reflecting in Congress ruled states," Tripathi said.

He also blames the party for sidelining veteran leaders in different states who have gone onto join other political outfits. "Bereft of mass leaders, Congress has not been able to manage factionalism which is now beginning to hurt the party. Earlier, these stalwarts would keep engaging party workers and take care of their aspirations. But that is all gone now. Uttarakhand is a classic example of how the party has mismanaged its affairs," Tripathi told Catch.

Even Congress leaders are miffed with the functioning of certain individuals who have been tasked to report such issues to the high command. "Arunachal Pradesh fiasco happened because of total mismanagement by Congress secretary in-charge V Narayanasamy. Ambika Soni did the same in Uttarakhand. The next state that may slip out of the Congress's grip is Himachal Pradesh. These secretaries were dealing with only chief ministers and serving their interests, not the party's. That is why the high command is unaware of disputes within the party," said a senior Congress leader.

On being questioned why no action is taken against these individuals, he said, "If we would have known the answer, wouldn't we all been a little wiser?"

Also read: Prashant Kishor's biggest obstacle isn't Amit Shah. It's the Congress old guard

First published: 28 March 2016, 10:57 IST