Another thin majority, another defeat
For the Congress, winning an election is important but these days the margin of victory seems to be more important.
The collapse of its government in three states displays the party’s vulnerability when pitted against an aggressive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It was Karnataka (the Congress was in a coalition with the Janata Dal-(Secular) in 2019, then Madhya Pradesh in 2020, and finally Puducherry on Monday.
“The striking similarity in three states — all with narrow majority (for the Congress) — is that the use of the BJP’s specialised technique, i.e. using unconstitutional means to create artificial majority in their favour,” said senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, who had fought the Karnataka case in court.
But some leaders also believe that the episodes also underline the Congress’s inability to keep its flock together in a crunch situation. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government did have a wafer-thin majority of just seven MLAs, but the party failed to address the issues of Jyotiraditya Scindia, who joined the BJP in March 2020.
Similarly, in Puducherry, many local leaders had an uneasy relationship with V Narayanasamy, who resigned from the chief minister’s post on Monday, right from the beginning. A Congress leader based in Chennai alleged that “the perception was that the CM had been paratrooped from the party headquarters and the central leadership only listens to him”.
In states where the party has a comfortable majority, the Congress has been able to avert crises. In August 2020, the Congress government in Rajasthan was threatened after fissures widened between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and deputy CM Sachin Pilot. Pilot and his loyal MLAs even left Rajasthan and camped in neighbouring Haryana, putting the Congress leadership on the tenterhooks.
“We managed to handle the situation as the Congress was way ahead of the BJP in the assembly. Even in Chhattisgarh, there are strong frictions but the legislative strength of the party make us feel comfortable,” said a senior party strategist.
Some senior leaders of the party also feel that the real test of party’s crisis managers is not when there is a wide majority in the legislative house but when the stakes are high and numbers are low.
“We definitely need to improve internal management. After all, we came to power in MP after 15 years, but lost our government in 15 months,” said another senior leader.
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