The open revolt by Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, barely four months after Jyotiraditya Scindia quit, has once again brought into focus the Congress’s leadership battles across multiple States.
From Punjab to Haryana, Himachal Pradesh to Chhattisgarh, there is simmering discontent among leaders who are ready to challenge the State leadership, threatening to split wide open. But a weak ‘high command’ after successive Lok Sabha losses has failed to fact decisively.
In Punjab, while Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is facing almost a daily challenge from former State unit chief Partap Singh Bajwa, who often takes to social media to register his protests, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has almost gone into political hibernation.
Now, reports suggest Mr. Bajwa and Mr. Sidhu are coming together to take on the Chief Minister. And ironically, much like Mr. Scindia and Mr. Pilot, both leaders are considered to be close to former party chief Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
“When we came to power after 10 years of Akali-BJP rule, the Congress was like a clenched fist. Now, only the thumb rules, while the other four fingers are lying idle,” Mr. Bajwa told The Hindu but refused to elaborate any further.
In Haryana, the fight-to-the-finish turf war between former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the State unit’s former chief, Ashok Tanwar, resulted in Mr. Tanwar’s exit just ahead of the Assembly polls last October.
Although the party brought in Kumari Selja in an effort to balance different factions, Mr. Hooda continues to tower over all other groups within the party.
It was clearly evident this March when the Congress leadership had to accept Mr. Hooda’s son, Deepender, as the party’s nominee in the Rajya Sabha elections from Haryana over Mr. Gandhi’s preference, Randeep Surjewala.
Himachal Pradesh too is witnessing a triangular contest among former Chief Minister Vir Bhadra Singh (VBS), right-term legislator Kaul Singh and current State Congress chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore.
In Chhattisgarh too, there is constant talk of intense rivalry between Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Health Minister T.S. Singh Deo.
Opinion on what’s prompting leaders to leave the Congress is divided: while former party spokesperson Sanjay Jha talked about talent being ignored, others blame weak leadership.
While many refrained from making their views public, Mr. Jha tweeted on what ailed the party.
“I fully back Sachin Pilot. Look at the facts: Rajasthan 2013 Assembly elections; CM- Mr. Gehlot. Result: BJP- 163, Congress- 21 ( lowest ever) Rajasthan 2018 Assembly Elections: Result: BJP-73, Congress-100. One man slogged 5 years for it; Sachin. But who becomes the CM?” tweeted Mr. Jha on Monday.
“If you look at the people who have left or are ready to revolt, most of them have been very close to Rahul Gandhi. And it’s not as if Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia were not rewarded when the UPA was in power. They were not only given important portfolios but also projected as faces of the future. Yet, they left [or revolted]. It means they were not sure of the party’s leadership,” said a sitting member of Parliament.