Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks that vested interests within and outside didn’t allow the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance to succeed in Karnataka comes as a reality check to Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where the governments image have taken a beating due to factional fights in the party.
“From its first day, the Cong-JDS alliance in Karnataka was a target for vested interests, both within & outside, who saw the alliance as a threat & an obstacle in their path to power. Their greed won today. Democracy, honesty & the people of Karnataka lost,” tweeted Mr. Gandhi.
He didn’t name anyone but it was no secret that former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah — who joined the Congress in July 2006 after falling out with his one-time colleague and then JD(S) chief Deve Gowda — had an uneasy equation with the Gowdas.
In the past one year, on several occasions, Congress Ministers in the H.D. Kumaraswamy government who were loyal to Mr. Siddaramaiah had aired their views against the former Chief Minister.
The starting point of dissidence by Congress MLAs, many believed, originated in the party over leadership.
The relative inexperience of the Congress in-charge for Karnataka, K.C. Venugopal, may have made matters worse to deal with senior Congress leaders in the State and Mr. Kumaraswamy often had to land at Rahul Gandhi’s 12 Tughlaq lane residence to iron out the creases.
But with Mr. Gandhi withdrawing from the leadership role for the past two months (on May 25, he resigned as party president before the Congress Working Committee) and no immediate replacement in sight to take quick and effective decisions, the leadership vacuum will be acutely felt if a crisis emerges in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
In both these Hindi heartland States, the Congress has a wafer thin majority with the help of independents and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) or Samajwadi Party lawmakers.
In Rajasthan, post the Lok Sabha poll rout, it has been an open battle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy, Sachin Pilot, who continues to head the Congress in the State.
And the Congress in Madhya Pradesh is known for its factionalism, with workers displaying their loyalty to their leaders instead of the party as a whole.
Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan held out a mild warning when he said the Congress’s internal rifts bring down governments. “We won’t pull down the government but we can’t say if the BSP or SP does something,” he said.
In the absence of an effective party chief, the Congress will find it difficult to handle any such ‘rethink’ by any of its allies in any other State.