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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

Poll-battered Congress struggles for revival

Hilal Ahmad Mir, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 06, 2014
First Published: 18:22 IST(6/8/2014) | Last Updated: 01:40 IST(7/8/2014)

Smarting under its worst-ever defeat in Lok Sabha elections this year, the Congress appears to be in a painful churn, desperately looking for a rallying point to revive the party's standing in Indian politics.

While the BJP has Hindutva, the Left its Marx and smaller parties their regional planks, the Congress is facing overt and covert calls to reconsider its traditional reliance on the charisma of the Nehru-Gandhi family that helped the party rule India for a major part of the past six decades.

But the crushing defeat in the April-May elections has left many in the party questioning the ability of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, to lead. Rumblings of discontent have grown in the party's states units from Punjab and Assam to Haryana and Maharashtra.

Recently, Congress rebel leader in Punjab Jagmeet Brar remarked that party president Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, should take a country-wide tour to listen to the views of party workers. Brar has been issued a show-cause notice.

Read: Jaitley alleges rebellion in Cong after Rahul comments, Sonia Gandhi rubbishes charges

But that did not prevent AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi from endorsing his views and remarking that "the leadership should also be listening".

At the same time, there has been a growing clamour for Priyanka Gandhi to play a "more active" role. Oscar Fernandes, who was a special invitee to Congress highest decision making body CWC, told reporters on Tuesday that she should give more time to the party and that she does not need a post to do that.

Dwivedi too had reportedly said that late Rajiv Gandhi told him once that among his two children, Priyanka had shown interest in politics and possessed the "attitude" for a political career. Some interpret these calls as a sign of diminishing confidence in Rahul who was the undeclared face of the party's poll campaign.

The clamour increased after Congress' worst performance in general elections, when it got a paltry 44 Lok Sabha seats. Since then, many Congress politicians have publicly questioned Rahul's leadership.

Read: Rahul slams 'partial' Lok Sabha Speaker, says only one man's voice heard in Parliament

That is probably why for the first time since he became an MP in 2004, Gandhi on Wednesday walked towards the speaker's podium with fellow Congress members to join a small group of opposition MPs who were protesting against the government. A combative Rahul was demanding a discussion on communal violence and accused speaker Sumitra Mahahan of gagging opposition members.

Party insiders believe a resurgent leadership is needed to stem growing discord within the party, especially in the states. While Haryana leader Birender Singh is planning to join BJP, another senior leader from the state, Avtar Singh Bhadana, is learnt to be negotiating with Om Prakash Chautala's INLD. To make the matters worse, Haryana excise and taxation minister Kiran Chaudhary recently met a senior BJP union minister, sparking off speculations that she too might desert the party.

In Maharashtra, dissident Cabinet minister Narayan Rane had resigned after publicly criticising the party leadership and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.  He had withdrawn the resignation after consultations with Rahul Gandhi, AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra Mohan Prakash.

HT Column: A card played once: Rahul and renunciation

In Assam, a rebel group of about 38 legislators led by Himanta Biswa Sarma had told the governor that they had no confidence in Tarun Gogoi's leadership.

In all these states, where assembly elections are scheduled later this year, Congress had performed badly in the Lok Sabha election. The outcome of these polls, as also in Jharkhand, will make the Gandhi leadership even more vulnerable.

Assam
About 38 legislators led by rebel Himanta Biswa Sarma say they have no confidence in Tarun Gogoi's leadership. The party had performed badly in Lok Sabha polls under Gogoi

Maharashtra
While the party witnessed dissent in the form of a revolt by minister Narayan Rane, its ally NCP has shown signs of unease over seat distribution for coming assembly polls

Haryana
Congress leader Birender Singh planning to join BJP; another senior leader Avtar Singh Bhadana learnt to be negotiating with Om Prakash Chautala's INLD; taxation minister Kiran Chaudhary sets tongues wagging after meeting a senior BJP union minister

 


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