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The Congress is well rid of its ideological misfits

The Congress has usually not rewarded any imports - not even socialists - beyond a point. Sharad Pawar and Digamber Kamat were the exceptions

mumbai Updated: Aug 22, 2017 14:38 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Congress,Maharashtra,misfit
The Congress has usually not rewarded any imports - not even socialists - beyond a point. Sharad Pawar and Digamber Kamat were the exceptions.(File)

At the event of the release of his recent book some months ago, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari had an unusually full house - for a Congress leader, that is. I had thought they might all be there to scratch his eyes out over his biting comments on Narendra Modi, but I was quite taken aback when the opposite happened.

They did want to scratch his eyes out but for not taking on Modi enough – they were upset that the Congress was allowing the Union government to run away with the credit for its own schemes - like Aadhar, MGNAREGA, the Goods and Services Tax, etc.

“ Why are you not doing enough to counter their claims and point out to the people that the BJP is trying to own these schemes of yours today after bitterly opposing them when in opposition,” they asked.

However, their bitterest lament was reserved for the Congress having admitted and given a lot of authority to imports from the saffron forces over the years.

“In Goa, Gujarat, even here in Maharashtra and Mumbai, you are losing because these imports are ideological misfits in your party. Congress voters do not like them and they will never be able to understand what works for the Congress. They only care about themselves, they do nothing for your party.”

That observation was remarkable coming as it did from an ordinary citizen who was completely unconnected with politics and it stumped Tewari. “I agree,” is all he could say. But as events of recent past unfolded, the gentleman who asked that question proved eerily prescient.

His reference had been to Digamber Kamat in Goa, Shankersinh Vaghela in Gujarat and Narayan Rane and Sanjay Nirupam in Maharashtra – the Congress lost a won battle in Goa because of a leadership crisis where Kamat, as former chief minister, was completely unequal to the task; Vaghela almost lost the Congress the Rajya Sabha election of Ahmed Patel by pushing some of his supporters into the BJP’s arms; Nirupam lost the BMC polls because blue-blooded Congressmen considered him a parvenu and did not co-operate and Narayan Rane, who has been losing most of his elections, is now all set to abandon the Congress and join the BJP. Vaghela’s betrayal of the Congress and Rane’s imminent exit are being described as “big jolts” to the Congress but I disagree - they are more in the nature of good riddance and I believe the Congress would be better off without these ideological misfits in their party.

The Congress has usually not rewarded any imports - not even socialists - beyond a point. Sharad Pawar and Digamber Kamat were the exceptions. But it is worth noting that both began life as Congressmen and so could seamlessly integrate back into the party again. Their ethos essentially remained socialist even when they were out of the party.

But while Kamat was always dependent on the Congress leadership, Pawar was his own man - he could sweep elections while leading the Congress and this also set him apart from the other losers.

Vaghela and Rane, though, were already high profile chief ministers in Gujarat and Maharashtra while with the BJP and Shiv Sena respectively. So closely associated with these ideologically opposite parties were they that they have been unable to bring much to the Congress’s table but for successive defeats. And yet they continue to sulk and lust for the post of chief ministers.

Vaghela is not what the Congress voters in Gujarat are looking for and the manner in which Ahmed Patel got around his betrayal to win his Rajya Sabha election proves that the Congress can do a better job when they rely on themselves rather than their imports.

Rane, too, over the years, has failed to deliver the Konkan, his one-time fiefdom while he was with the Shiv Sena, to the party. The Congress could have won the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections in 2007 and changed the political discourse had they not placed undue trust in him to win the bulk of seats in Central Mumbai, most of which he lost.

At least Pawar has never lost an election on his home turf on whichever party symbol he contested. The series of defeats Rane has suffered in the Konkan proves that, like Vaghela, he is more of a liability than an asset to the party.

The Congress should actually send some flowers to such leaders as soon as possible. For their exits could be a boon, and no jolt, to the party.

First Published: Aug 22, 2017 14:37 IST