NEWS CONGRESS MUKUL
NEW DELHI: The Congress Working Committee is meeting this week to discuss and decide on a new chief for the party in place of Rahul Gandhi, whose resignation from the post is pending for the past over a month. The party’s rank and file is seriously concerned over problems remaining unattended in the party, leading to further complication of matters mainly in Punjab, Karnataka and Goa.
The resignation of senior minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from the Amarinder Singh-led ministry on Sunday, at the height of a feud with the chief minister, has come as a new headache to the Congress party. The resignation came in the context of the CM stripping Sidhu of some portfolios. The ministry faces no serious threat now, but Sidhu is yet to announce his future plans. Sidhu’s family is cut up with the chief minister also as they feel Sidhu’s wife was denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls at the behest of the CM.
The ministry faces no immediate threat as the Opposition does not have the numbers to challenge the Congress. While the Congress has 77 MLAs, the AAP is the main opposition with 20 seats, the Siromani Akali Dal (SAD) has 15 seats and the BJP just three seats.
The Congress is all set to lose power in Karnataka. There are more defections from the party to the BJP, and chief minister HD Kumaraswamy is facing a serious political crisis and his survival is quite unlikely. The dissident MLAs from the Congress made it clear on Sunday that they would not go back to the Congress. Meanwhile, BJP leader and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa said his party has a good chance of forming an alternative government in two to three days.
With the defection of 10 MLAs from the Congress to the BJP in Goa last week, the BJP government in the state is now comfortably placed while the tricolour party is deeply embarrassed. The Congress is left with just five MLAs now. The BJP has, since the 2017 assembly polls, been running government with support from a few non-BJP MLAs, and the defections last week has been of major help to it in running the ministry for another three years.
Meanwhile, the BJP in West Bengal is hoping to get over 100 MLAs from Trinamool Congress, the CPIM and the Congress to its side. If this happens, the TMC ministry led by Mamata Banerjee would fall. Stating this, party leader Mukul Roy said the political scenario in the state is set for major changes in the near future. Mamata Banerjee is on the defensive after the BJP made a big impact in the Lok Sabha polls in the state, winning some 18 seats and hugely increasing its vote share.
There is major confusion in the party leadership over finding a successor to Rahul Gandhi, who now wants to guide the party from behind as some kind of a marg darshak in a commanding position – unlike the weak positioning of marg darshaks like LK Advani and MM Joshi in the BJP after PM Modi took power in 2014.
Latest speculations centre around Mukul Wasnik, 59-year-old leader from Maharashtra who now holds the post of Congress general secretary. He is close to Rahul Gandhi and a Dalit face among the new generation of leaders. He hails from a Congress family and his father Balakrishna Wasnik was in parliament for three terms. A section of bigwigs in the party like Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh are reported to have advised the “first family” to keep aside the old guard like Mallikarjun Kharge and Sushilkumar Shinde, whose names had cropped up in this context earlier, and instead introduce some young face.
Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Gwalior royal family in Madhya Pradesh and son of former Union minister Madhavrao Scindia, does not want to take up the post and has other plans.
Sachin Pilot, BC leader from Rajasthan and son of former Union minister Rajesh Pilot, too was in the picture but did not gain traction. It was in this context that the name of Mukul Wasnik came up.
The first family seems to prefer one or other Dalit leader as he would listen to them and will not have an independent existence. Also, since the family represents the forward segment, what could balance matters is to have a Dalit or BC nominee for president post.
The idea is for a presidium of top leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi working from behind and the nominated president would need to run around and implement the plans and strategies recommended by the presidium. This presidium could, in its second layer, have the CWC to formulate ideas and guide the president in organisational matters, with nod from the presidium.
The family is reportedly not in favour of projecting any OBC leader, for fear that he might eventually edge out the first family, that is Brahminical at its core. However, projection of a Brahmin, or a forward caste leader as in the case of Jyotiraditya Scindia, too might not help the party in terms of retaining the party’s mass base, some leaders feel.
Forward communities form no more than a quarter of the population and are not a decisive force in electoral terms. Projection of a “BC” leader in the form of Narendra Modi helped the BJP win power in 2014 and 2019. Whenever Modi is caught in a difficult situation, as in elections, he flaunts his BC tag, though those like Mayawati question his BC credentials.
With the Congress caught in a serious predicament, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy suggested last week that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, a Brahmin, be given a chance to lead the Congress party. He also suggested that the “Italians” can quit politics for good – meaning the three Gandhis. There were also suggestions to consider ageing Maratha leader Sharad Pawar for the Congress president post by way of a re-amalgamation of the NCP with the tricolour party, but hardly anyone in the Congress is enthused at such a prospect, least of all the “first family.” –IHN-NN
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