Former Congress leaders now helm six states
“There will now be three BJP-ruled states in the North East where Chief Minister is a former Congressman,’’ tweeted Congress Member of Parliament Abhishek Manu Singhvi, going on to list Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma who took oath as CM on Monday, Pema Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh and N Biren Singh of Manipur.
Singhvi’s message was likely prompted by Sarma being sworn in as CM of Assam. Interestingly, two other CMs sworn in after the latest round of assembly elections are also Congress alumni -- West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee who founded the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Puducherry’s N Rangaswamy, founder of the NR Congress.
Singhvi explained that he was just pointing out a coincidence.
“I genuinely tweeted it when I noticed a striking coincidence in North Eastern states,’’ said Singhvi. “Now that you ask me, there are three other such CMs that have similar umbilical cords. This is merely underlining and not a value judgement on either the Congress or the persons concerned.’’
But there were others who did make a value judgement.
“Both Mamata Banerjee and Himanta Biswa Sarma who are taking oath as CM are former Congress leaders. They left because of our arrogance. And disrespect of their opinions. Add Jyotiraditya Scindia to the list. It’s long. It is never too late to learn from one’s blunders,” tweeted former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha.
There’s also Andhra Pradesh’s Jagan Mohan Reddy.
While there is no public acknowledgement of the fact, Hindustan Times learns that there is regret that the party couldn’t retain Sarma.
Sarma quit the Congress before the 2014 elections after a fall out with his mentor Tarun Gogoi. The BJP’s decision to move him to the CM’s post is being seen as the party’s recognition of his influence beyond Assam, especially with key elections coming up in other North Eastern states
“He is a self-made person and a dynamic leader,’’ a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity. “He would have really helped us grow.’’
Congress spokesperson Pramod Tiwari chose to see the brighter side. “This shows that there is no dearth of talent in the Congress party. Now, people may leave because they have misunderstandings with one another but it also exposes that there is no talent in the BJP.”
These misunderstandings have proved costly for the party. In late 2010, Reddy’s exit came after the party didn’t make him CM after his father, Y S Rajashekhara Reddy, died in a helicopter crash in 2009.
Similarly, N Rangaswamy, who has now become the CM of Puducherry for the fourth time is a Congress veteran who formed his own party in 2011 . The Congress asked him to resign as CM in 2008. “The problem was that he didn’t get along with former Puducherry CM V Narayansamy,’’ said a party leader from the state who didn’t want to be identified. “And he couldn’t lobby with the Delhi leadership. So they only heard Narayansamy’s perspective and not his.’’
Likewise, Khandu left in 2016, as did Singh.
“No one trusts the Congress leadership,’’ said BJP’s general secretary Arun Singh, who was one of the party’s observers sent to Assam. “If people from there are inspired by (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji and embrace our ideology, we will welcome them. It’s their weakness that gets exposed.”
“The problem is not Congress’s inability to retain talent, but the BJP model of party building based on defections and breaking other parties,” said Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, JNU.