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Ex-Congressmen & Sons

Two spurned politicians may become serious bugbears for the Congress, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Oct 20, 2011 00:11 IST

The failure of the Congress to placate two young upcoming leaders — YS Jaganmohan Reddy, son of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR), and Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal — may provide a reason why the party is slipping in its strongholds.

Both Reddy and Bishnoi have retur-ned to Parliament trouncing Congress nominees in the process. Both had revolted because of the perceived injustice done to their families by party leaders. Now both hold the maximum threat to their erstwhile party in their states. Reddy and Bishnoi have made their mark by winning from Kadapa and Hisar. Their wins are significant, as they have been carved out after the deaths of their fathers, both eminent leaders who served the Congress for a long time.

The Congress leadership seems to have mishandled the two cases and may now face the consequences of such a miscalculation made by several senior functionaries. YSR died in 2009, soon after providing Congress 33 MPs in the Lok Sabha and a big majority in the assembly. But immediately after his death, the Congress central leadership started ignoring his family to the extent that both Jaganmohan and his mother felt humiliated. There is a perception that the announcement of a separate Telangana state was made in December 2009 primarily to contain the influence of YSR’s family as a strong section within the Congress considered Jagan and his mother a possible threat to them in the future.

YSR used to deal directly with the Congress leadership and rarely attached any importance to advisors and the coterie. This could have peeved many leaders who conspired to end his legacy by marginalising his family and exploring the possibility of forming Telangana. Instead of trying to keep Jagan and his mother on their side, they started wooing Chiranjeevi and his supporters and made them join the party. But Jagan has fought back and is viewed as the biggest challenge to the Congress and other parties in Andhra Pradesh.

The story of Kuldeep Bishnoi is similar. Kuldeep, along with his father, left the Congress to form the Haryana Janhit Congress after being sidelined. Kuldeep fought back and in 2009, Bhajan Lal won from Hisar, denying the Congress a clean sweep of all the 10 parliamentary seats from Haryana. Apart from himself, Kuldeep got five of his associates elected to the assembly. But the Congress, short of a majority by five, got the five associates to defect to it. A possible compromise may have been reached had Kuldeep been made deputy chief minister or if a mutually acceptable formula had been worked out. No such thing happened and the young leader vowed to avenge his humiliation.

After the death of his father earlier this year, Kuldeep decided to contest from Hisar with the BJP’s support. Earlier this week he emerged as the most powerful non-Jat leader in Har-yana, a state that has seen Jat rule for the last 16 years. Like Jagan in Andhra Pradesh, Kuldeep stands the chance of capturing Haryana in the future.

The story of these two leaders who could have been pillars of strength for Rahul Gandhi provides a cautionary tale of how the Congress has squandered its advantage due to political mishandling. So while Reddy and Bishnoi find themselves in enviable positions, the Congress is the loser.