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Cacophony from the Congress

The frustration within is because the party has been losing elections it should have won and because no one is being held accountable for these avoidable debacles, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2008 01:05 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times

The party appears to be getting over. Just when the Congress should have put up a united face to take on the Sangh parivar in elections to five of the six states going to polls in the next eight weeks, voices of dissent have suddenly started getting louder. Leading the charge is none other than AICC general secretary Margaret Alva.

Alva took political circles by surprise by declaring that tickets for the Karnataka poll were sold and lashed out at her party leadership for adopting dual standards in giving party nominations to relatives of senior leaders.

Alva has been most upset since her son was denied a ticket while relatives of leaders were being given the nomination in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. What she said could be true, but her detractors may use her outburst to marginalise her for indiscipline. But there can be no denying that she has identified certain symptoms that point to the latent disease in the Congress. She has further sought to highlight how coteries were operating in the party and taking arbitrary decisions.

Her critics attributed all kinds of motives behind her revolt. Some claimed that she wanted the ticket for her son so that, as general secretary in charge of eight states, she could have collected huge funds for his election. This is a very below-the-belt hit given that Alva is a senior and respected leader. Some others said that she had done it to hit out at Digvijay Singh, her colleague who was on the screening committee for Karnataka, and at Prithviraj Chavan, who is in charge of the Congress in Karnataka. There were still others who said that Alva might go the ‘Najma way’. (Najma Hepatullah was a Congress Rajya Sabha MP for four terms before she shifted to the BJP on being denied a Congress ticket.)

A section within the Congress feels that raking up the Karnataka ticket distribution when elections to other states are being held certainly amounts to anti-party activity. But Alva

has brought certain issues on the table that were being ignored till now. There maybe truth in the allegations about money changing hands. By raising this, Alva has tried to alert the top leadership and prevent such activities during the current polls.

However, the outburst is also an indication that the influence of the Congress leadership appears to be on the decline. Normally speaking, Alva should have been removed from the general secretaryship on Thursday night itself. Since that has not been done, it is possible that the leadership may have taken her charges seriously. Her outburst is in a way a reflection on the state of the party where loyal workers were suffering and outsiders were making the best of things.

Alva’s supporters say that while party workers have been denied tickets, others like Rashid Alvi and Ishwar Singh who came from other parties were given Rajya Sabha nominations without applying much mind.

The second embarrassment for the Congress is the controversial statement made by Alvi about the Prime Minister declining his demand for a judicial inquiry into the Jamia Millia-Batla House encounter. The issue is a very delicate one and for a Congress leader to make such a statement was certainly avoidable given that the government has taken a stand on this already.

What Alva and Alvi are saying is something that was coming for long. A power struggle has been on within the Congress. While all groups owe full allegiance to Sonia Gandhi, they have begun taking pot shots at each other. If the party does badly in the assembly polls, such voices will grow louder and more Congress leaders shall join the chorus. The frustration within is because the party has been losing elections it should have won and because no one is being held accountable for these avoidable debacles.

A lot is at stake and the Congress has to overcome the threat from within to be fighting fit. Sonia Gandhi must assert herself before it is too late. Between us.