Congress’ rigidity may force it to play second fiddle to regional players

Rohit Chandavarkar
Monday, 1 April 2019

Rahul’s so called or alleged “withdrawal from UP” is just part of this bigger picture of Congress losing out space to regional parties like Samajwadi party or AAP in states. If the party looks at it in the right perspective, they might realise that unless they change quickly and be more flexible, they might be gradually pushed into a role of playing second fiddle to the regional or smaller players in various states in the future.

The BJP looked elated on Sunday as the Congress party announced that Rahul Gandhi will contest Lok Sabha polls from a ‘safe’ seat in Kerala apart from his traditional constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, it was described by the BJP as Rahul Gandhi’s escape from Amethi in face of probable defeat he faced against BJP’s candidate, union minister Smriti Zubin Irani.

The Congress party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi described this as party president’s strategy to take along southern part of India and make the south Indians feel united with him and his party! "We want the south to feel that they are also part of one India, we want them to identify with us" said Chaturvedi. While BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said "This is Rahul Gandhi's escape from his traditional bastion" .. Both sides might make whatever claims in public space the fact of the matter is that historically most big political leaders have contested from a second ‘safe seat’ only when they have felt threatened in their original bastion and sense that they might lose there. 

Rahul Gandhi need not feel small or inferior to somebody else when he decides to contest from a second seat,  because history tells us that none other than BJP’s own stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and party’s Prime Ministerial candidates like Narendra Modi himself have done the same in the past.

However Congress party president must think of why and how this stage has come for the party in not just Uttar Pradesh but many other states where his party is now forced to play second fiddle to some regional or state level player.

Senior leader and NCP President Sharad Pawar described to the author of this piece, some years ago, how right from Indira Gandhi’s days the Congress had a systematic method of side lining the popular regional leaders in various states and installing their own puppets in the states as party presidents or even as Chief Minister. In Maharashtra A. R. Antuley was a classic example of this. As a result of this strategy of the party, through the years regional leaders who enjoyed support of the masses in their own states went away from the Congress and floated their own political outfits. In Maharashtra Sharad Pawar did this while in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee did the same thing. In time, the Congress found itself losing popular mass support as it selected the wrong faces to lead the party in states just on the basis of loyalty to the party. 

This resulted in the party one by one losing its bastions like state of Maharashtra, state of Karnataka, city of Mumbai, city of Delhi, state of Punjab and many more to relatively new entrants. Today Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party is able to dictate terms to the Indian National Congress or Sharad Pawar’s NCP is able to demand a particular quota of seats in every election while Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have gone ahead with a solid alliance in Uttar Pradesh even without waiting for the Congress to participate in it. All this is because of the Congress party’s rigid attitude to get into alliances and be flexible. Rahul’s alleged “withdrawal from UP” is just part of this bigger picture and if the party looks at it in the right perspective, they might realise that unless they change quickly they might be pushed into a role where they have to play second fiddle to the regional and smaller players in the future.

Related News