Home >Opinion >Columns >Opinion | The old versus new duel within Congress Party

The two major political parties of the country seem to be engaged in a corporate war. While grabbing the vote-banks of one another, they have now busied themselves in poaching each other’s best fighters. The entry of Jyotiraditya Scindia into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an example.

First, let’s talk about the BJP. It’s correct that the saffron party and its allies under the leadership of Narendra Modi had won the May 2019 elections with a thumping majority, but the trends before and after this victory were not positive. The trend of slipping down, which started from Karnataka finally reached even Delhi. Meanwhile, a good old ally, Shiv Sena also parted ways with the BJP. Uddhav Thackeray joined hands with old and staunch opponents such as the Congress and the National Congress Party. This fact, which was unimaginable a little while ago, made the BJP’s glorious victory of May 2019 fade.

Meanwhile, the Indian economy suffered strong jolts. However, without being dismayed by all this, the government went ahead and repealed Article 370 and even succeeded in passing the new citizenship law. Amid all this, the order the top court passed on building the Ram temple was in favour of those who wanted the temple. All this has created an environment of communal tension. On the pretext of protesting against the citizenship law, people came out on streets. In Delhi, violence erupted at the time when US President Donald Trump was a guest of Modi during his visit to India. Clearly, the government needed to immediately salvage its image. Besides, the message had to be conveyed that the invincible element of the Modi-Amit Shah combine still exists. One of the most fascinating personalities of the Congress, Scindia joining the BJP seems to fulfil all the above purposes.

Scindia is a leader who has a firm standing on the ground. As soon as he joined the BJP, more than 20 Congress MLAs rebelled against the party, including almost half a dozen state ministers. So far, CM Kamal Nath who has a reputation of being able to ‘manage’ adverse circumstances, has been trying hard with his newfound partner Digvijaya Singh to save his government. Whether the MP government will remain or fall, we will come to know only next week, but one thing is sure—the ruling government of Bhopal has lost its reputation and governments run on the basis of their reputation and credibility.

It will not be surprising if leaders from Congress and other parties are seen in the BJP in the coming days. One reason for this is that veteran leaders of the oldest political party of the country are still clinging on to power. The day a massive crowd gathered in Bhopal to welcome Scindia, the former Haryana CM, Bhupinder Hooda, was pressurizing the party leadership that instead of Selja Kumari, the party should give his son the Rajya Sabha ticket and he succeeded. Selja is well-educated and belongs to a Dalit family. The Congress does not have many Dalit leaders. The BJP too feels the lack of Dalit leaders in the party. And why only Selja? During the last Lok Sabha elections, the rumour was rife that Jitin Prasada in Uttar Pradesh might soon be joining the BJP. In the same manner, Milind Deora in Maharashtra and Navjot Singh Sidhu in Punjab have also been going through this phase of dissatisfaction. I am not saying that these leaders are also going to join the BJP, but after Scindia’s departure from the party, such questions have started surfacing. The Congress has a large number of young leaders who right now are dissatisfied. The party will have to pay attention to this.

Is the Congress in the right frame of mind for this? It does not look like that. The wheel of time seems to have turned backwards. In 1967, when the young leaders were getting organized in the leadership of Indira Gandhi, stalwarts such as Morarji Desai, Nijalingappa, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, K. Kamaraj were in Congress (O). Against it was Congress (I) that is Congress (Indira). The new Congress had humbled the old stalwarts to dust. At that time, Indira Gandhi was 50 years old. Today Rahul Gandhi is 49. Instead of confronting the situation head on, Rahul Gandhi withdrew himself after the 2019 Lok Sabha election debacle, though his party was in power in six states, and over 120 million people voted for the Congress. As a result, the duel of old versus new within the Congress grew rapidly in which the old guard became powerful. The exact opposite of it should have happened. This division has sprung from such decisions. It is also important to note that the BJP is trying to bring its bitterest rivals into its fold by making its stance flexible. This will not only improve the party’s image but also prepare a new crop of young leaders in the party. But, the party seems unable to retain its most loyal leaders. This is the time for the Congress high command to rethink its policies. Will they be able to do so?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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