NEW DELHI : Weeks after taking over as the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi’s key challenge will be to deal with factionalism in poll-bound Jharkhand and Haryana, while addressing the leadership vacuum in Delhi. Though Gandhi has wasted no time in devising election strategies for the three states, new appointments and election-related committees may not be enough to contain the rising rebellion in its ranks.

For instance, while Rameshwar Oraon was named the Jharkhand Congress chief on Monday evening to fill the position after Ajoy Kumar’s resignation earlier this month, the differences could only deepen the crisis ahead of the elections, said a section of state leaders, requesting anonymity.

Before resigning, Kumar, in a scathing letter to the top leadership, had alleged that a number of senior leaders, including Oraon and former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay, were only seeking “to grab political posts for personal benefits and have made every attempt to bypass the systems that have been put in place to benefit the party".

“It is one versus another and, given the situation in the state unit, including the recent fights at the party office, the rivalries between the old guard and young leaders could intensify," a senior party leader said.

The two factions within the Jharkhand Congress had come to blows earlier this month over its poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections. The police had to intervene to bring the situation under control.

Similar differences were witnessed in the Congress’s Haryana unit with party veteran Bhupinder Singh Hooda revolting against the party leadership. The state unit has split into two factions, one comprising Hooda’s supporters, who are demanding a change in the state leadership, and the other supporting state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar. In fact, a change of guard in the state organization seems inevitable.

Three-time Delhi chief minister and Congress state unit president Sheila Dikshit’s death in July could also expose the fault lines in the party’s Delhi unit in the run up to the assembly polls scheduled for early next year. Gandhi will have to walk a tight rope when she announces the name of Dikshit’s successor. There are three working presidents in the Delhi unit of the Congress. The party is looking to appoint a full-time chief soon and a meeting was held on Tuesday to deliberate on the issue.

The challenges will only become more pronounced if Gandhi fails to unite the factions before the polls as the Congress is not in power in any of these states.

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