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Scindia’s exit brings to fore leadership issue in Congress

By PTI Updated: Mar 11, 2020 10:09 pm
Congress MLAs arrive at Raja Bhoj Airport to leave for Jaipur, in Bhopal on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, March 11 (PTI) With the Congress losing its prominent young face Jyotiraditya Scindia, some leaders have raised apprehensions that his exit may trigger a wave of dissensions though the seniors insist all is not that bad in the party.

His departure apparently signals the deepening leadership crisis in the Congress which continues to grapple with factionalism and growing power struggles between the old and young leaders.

“The resignation of Scindia may well encourage other disgruntled young leaders in the Congress to raise banners of revolt or to look for space in other parties. We have off and on heard of many Congress leaders being in backdoor channel talks with the BJP. Such parleys may get intense now,” says a Congress leader, not wishing to be named.

However, Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma terms as speculative that Scindia’s exit may trigger a spate of resignations.

“Every person has a right to have one’s own ambition and one’s decision. He has taken a decision, the Congress party has taken a view and for the time being let the matter rest there,” he told PTI.

To a question that there are certain young leaders who are getting impatient and there are issues, he says, “I will not comment on anything which is speculation.”

Former Union minister and senior Congress leader Ashwani Kumar says Scindia’s exit at this stage is unfortunate and has certainly disheartened Congressmen.

“It is also necessary to introspect so as to control the fallout of the resignation. This would require a series of steps and I am sure the Congress high command is seized of the gravity of the situation,” he told PTI.

Another party leader Ajay Maken says the Congress is going through a “tough phase” and some powers have been trying to weaken the party which keeps the country united”.

“People who follow the Congress’s ideology… it is their duty to stand by it in these testing times,” a statement quoted him as saying.

After Scindia announced his resignation from the party on Tuesday, the first Congress leader to publicly lament his departure was former MP and sitting Haryana MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi who said it was a big blow and the party needed to empower youngsters who resonate with the masses.

“Jyotiraditya Scindia’s departure is a big blow to the Congress. He was a central pillar in the party and the leadership should’ve done more to convince him to stay. Like him, there are many other devoted INC leaders across the country who feel alienated, wasted & discontented. India’s oldest party needs to empower young leaders who have the capacity to work hard and resonate with the masses,” said Bishnoi, whose turf war with former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is well known.

Several young leaders in the Congress have been voicing their anxieties in public of late.

In Rajasthan, Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is engaged in a continuous power tussle with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. In Punjab, former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has been at loggerheads with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Ahead of Maharashtra elections, former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam had threatened to quit the party accusing Sonia Gandhi’s “coterie of sidelining Rahul Gandhi’s team members”.

Another young Maharashtra Congress leader Milind Deora has been striking a note of dissent of late.

According to Sharma, the young versus old debate is “more of a fabrication”.

However, insiders say multiple issues like party is adrift, weak-decision making processes and uncertain future leadership are causing anxieties among leaders who have long political careers ahead of them.

“Many leaders are feeling stifled in the party as they have no voice in the decision-making process. Scindia pointed out in his resignation letter today that he felt he could not serve the people or the country by staying in the Congress. That sense is shared by many leaders and the high command needs to address these concerns,” says another senior leader.

Sharma says the Congress has always given place to all those who have contributed and who have been recognised for their merit.

“It has been a judicious blend of the energy of the youth and the experience and wisdom of the seniors. That is how Congress party has been nurtured during 135 years of its existence. Had Congress not nurtured the younger leadership, the party would have not have survived for 135 years,” he says.

“Each one of us came up through the student and youth movement and we should not have a situation where the very functioning and selection processes of a party are trivialized and to inconsequential issues about the date of births,” he says.

Scindia’s departure from the Congress also raises question marks about delayed decision-making and status quo in the Congress, with the former MP himself pointing out in the letter that Tuesday’s events had been building up for a year.

After being denied the chief minister’s post in 2018, Scindia waited for long to be PCC chief, even as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh continued to steamroll his plans.

This week it became clear that Nath did not favour even a Rajya Sabha seat for Scindia, as several Madhya Pradesh leaders began demanding Priyanka Gandhi’s entry to the upper house from the state.

Of the three seats going to elections from Madhya Pradesh, Congress was expected to get only two, with Digvijaya Singh the main contender and Priyanka’s name floated as a second.

Cong. not the same as it used to be, far removed from reality, says Scindia

Jyotiraditya Scindia, who joined the BJP on Wednesday, criticised the Congress saying that the party is not the same as it used to be and is far removed from reality.

Addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters after being inducted into the party by its president JP Nadda, Scindia hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and said the country’s future is secure in his hands.

Talking about his decades-old association with the Congress, Scindia said he was hurt and distressed as he was not being able to serve the people in that party.

Attacking the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, he said the dream which he along with his former colleagues saw for Madhya Pradesh has been shattered in 18 months.

“I would like to thank BJP chief Nadda, Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for inviting me into the BJP family,” he said, adding that they had given him a platform to serve the people.

‘Rebel Cong. MLAs say they won’t quit party, confident of winning floor test’

Thirteen of the 22 rebel MLAs in Madhya Pradesh have given an assurance that “they are not leaving the Congress”, senior party leader Digvijaya Singh said on Wednesday while expressing confidence that the Kamal Nath-led government in the state will win a floor test.

“We are not keeping quiet. We are not sleeping,” Singh told PTI, a day after Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the Congress and 22 MLAs submitted their resignations from the assembly in Madhya Pradesh.

As uncertainty grew over the future of the Congress government in the state, pushed to the brink of collapse, Singh said nobody anticipated that Scindia, a former Union minister and four-time Lok Sabha MP, would quit the party.

“We did not anticipate that Scindia will quit the Congress… that was a mistake,” Singh said.

He added that Scindia was offered the post of Madhya Pradesh deputy chief minister but wanted his nominee. However, Kamal Nath refused to accept a “chela”, he said.

Scindia, Singh said, could have been a Congress nominee to the Rajya Sabha but “only Modi-Shah” can give a Cabinet post to the “over-ambitious” leader.

The senior leader also claimed that Scindia was roped in by the BJP after Shivraj Singh Chouhan failed to topple the Cong government in Madhya Pradesh. He alleged that the MLAs were offered a huge amount of money.

Scindia is likely to join the BJP in the presence of party president J P Nadda.

The Congress has a wafer thin majority in the 228-member assembly. Before the rebellion, its tally was 114. It also has the support of four Independents, two BSP MLAs and one from the SP, but some may now switch sides to the BJP.

If the resignations of the 22 MLAs are accepted, the strength of the assembly will fall to 206. The Congress, on its own, will then be left with 92 seats while the BJP has 107 seats with the magic number for a majority being 104.

By PTI Updated: Mar 11, 2020 10:09:28 pm