Dharmendra Jore: Congress loyalists on a sticky wicket

While many have cashed in on Brand Gandhi, none have offered to bail the party out

Disgruntled people within the Congress do not shy from accusing the party high command, particularly Rahul Gandhi, of denying loyalists a say in the party affairs. Former Mumbai Congress president Gurudas Kamat recently joined the upset lot when he declared retirement from active politics. The whisper campaign against Rahul has since increased.

Kamat did target the leadership by saying that his grievances remained unattended before he decided to quit and retire. But he blinked first. He retracted his statement as he saw a possibility of the bosses yielding to his demands. He lost no time in reiterating his loyalty to the Gandhis and then left the ball rolling in the (Gandhi) family’s court. Kamat is waiting for the final word from the family, which has asked senior leaders to retain him.

The Kamat episode helps one understand today’s Congress. Fighting its worst phase in electoral politics and organisation, the workers are angry with their local leadership. The rank and file is disillusioned as far as the top rankers Sonia and Rahul are concerned. They wonder what will happen to the party’s prospects after Rahul is elevated to the party president’s office this year. Some see Priyanka Gandhi a better leader than Rahul. Others wonder whether the once omnipotent Gandhi brand is on a steady decline. Chaos, confusion and hopelessness reign supreme in the party, which has ruled the country for decades.

The aayaram-gayaram trend isn’t a novelty to the Indian politics. One of largest ever shows of defection was seen before the 2014 elections which benefited the BJP most. The BJP continues to benefit from defections (latest example Assam). In Mumbai, an export from the Sena, Sanjay Nirupam heads the city unit, while another export, Mohan Prakash has been supervising the party for many years now. These two appear to be the prime reason for the resentment that is brewing. Kamat and other local leaders want more say ahead of the BMC polls. But on the other hand, Rahul has given Nirupam a free hand. He forgave Nirupam for the embarrassing articles that the Mumbai Congress’ mouthpiece. He has endorsed the president’s proposal for holding primaries to select BMC poll candidates.

The state Congress unit is equally upset. A large section of the party was happy when Rahul Gandhi chose Ashok Chavan to head the state unit early last year. They described the decision as “better late than never” because they saw in Chavan a leader who can provide leadership, resources and stability. However, the developments that have taken place recently have upset the state leaders at large. They wanted the party to field two candidates in the legislative council and not concede to the ‘non trustworthy’ NCP’s demand for support that the Sharad Pawar-led party had asked for electing its two candidates. The high command overruled the recommendations made by the state Congress, and made another import Narayan Rane an MLC. A staunch loyalist Muzaffar Hussain was left in the lurch by denying him the ticket.

State Congress leaders stand vindicated after the legislative polls results were officially out when Pawar openly blamed the Congress for their (the NCP-Congress) defeat in 2014. “Why does our high command succumb to the NCP every time?” ask angry Congress leaders.

“So called loyalists should ask themselves as to what they have given the party all these years. They solely depend on the Gandhi family for electoral wonders and when the party fails they start suspecting the family itself. These loyalists are the most selfish people in the entire Congress,” said a member of the Rahul brigade.

Rahul camp’s take on the developments should ring an alarm bell for the loyalists, who sulk but do not come forward to strengthen the party in its bad phase. No wonder why these satraps who have accumulated heaps of wealth for their families using the Brand Gandhi now find themselves on a sticky wicket.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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