How Congress has shot itself in the foot, again | India News

NEW DELHI: Trust the Congress to find new ways to dig itself into a hole. Right in the middle of its much-hyped Bharat Jodo Yatra, which was supposed to inject some life into the moribund party organisation, comes the Rajasthan crisis. The party leadership’s carefully choreographed plan to install a new Congress chief now lies in tatters.
The Gandhis’ plan to elevate Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot to the party presidency, by way of a nominal election, and hand the reins of the state to Sachin Pilot was a non-starter given Gehlot’s reluctance to cede space in Rajasthan and his antipathy towards Pilot. With the benefit of hindsight, the rebellion in the party’s state unit was to be wholly expected.

Two birds with one stone doesn’t work
Ever since it first emerged that Gehlot was the choice of the Gandhis for the post of Congress president, it was clear that the Rajasthan CM was not keen on the job. Initially, he kept repeating that he would try to convince Rahul Gandhi to become party chief and then, he tried to push the theory that he could hold on to both jobs simultaneously. Rahul put paid to that hope and Gehlot was left with no choice.
Gehlot being the ultimate Gandhi family loyalist was a key reason behind the leadership zeroing in on him but the wish to give the CM’s post to Pilot was an equally strong motive. Pilot maintains that he was promised the post after the last assembly election and is in no mood to retreat. Having led a very public rebellion once, he too really has no choice but to press his case.

The Punjab parallel
The leadership’s failure to learn from its Punjab fiasco is beyond comprehension and symbolises everything that is wrong with the Congress. There, it destabilised then CM Amarinder Singh on the prodding of Navjot Singh Sidhu and installed the untested Charanjit Singh Channi at the helm. What transpired later surprised no one — Amarinder quit the party and is now in the BJP, Channi presided over a humiliating loss in the assembly election and receded from public life while Sidhu lost his seat and is now in jail over an old assault case. The party’s unravelling in a state in which it was a prominent player was swift and debilitating.
The signs are similar in Rajasthan. Though Gehlot is unlikely to quit the party, he is equally unlikely to agree to Pilot as CM. However, if a decision is forced on him, all bets will be off. For Pilot, becoming CM at this juncture, with an overwhelming majority of MLAs clearly on Gehlot’s side, will be a daunting task. He will be met with resistance and hostility for the remainder of the government’s term and will have nothing to show when the state goes to polls next year.

What happens now?
The Gandhi family’s authority as the Congress’s final word has taken a severe beating, maybe a fatal one. Not being able to manage a smooth transition was bad enough but the fact that the rebellion came from someone known his steadfast loyalty over decades and who was to take over as party chief will rankle. This shows two things — the Gandhis’ writ is no longer what it used to be, and that even a loyalist will rebel if things go against him.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. The Congress was looking to grab some eyeballs with its Bharat Jodo Yatra but has ended up being the laughing stock all over again. The Yatra has receded into the background as the party tries to douse the fire raging in the desert state. With state polls one year out, the BJP must be feeling smug. With an opponent intent on self-destruction, it just needs to keep the ship steady.

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