Editorial: Fresh Trouble For Congress

Editorial: Fresh Trouble For Congress

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, February 28, 2024, 10:58 PM IST
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The biennial election to the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday brings no comfort to the Congress party. Reflecting the complete disarray in its ranks, six party MLAs in Himachal Pradesh voted against the official candidate, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, handing over the lone seat from the state to the BJP nominee Harsh Mahajan. Consequently, the Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu’s government was tottering on the brink. On Wednesday morning when the Assembly met, 15 BJP MLAs were suspended, and, following the passage of the budget by a voice-vote, assembly hurriedly adjourned. A rearguard fire-fighting operation was set in motion, with a group of observers from the party high command rushing to the State capital, Shimla, to try and stem further dissidence in the party. The motion to expel the six Congress MLAs who had cross-voted was moved, though the latter approached the court against the short-circuiting of the laid-down procedure in such cases and are likely to get a stay. Doubtless, the revolt in Himachal Pradesh reflected the simmering trouble in the Congress Legislature Party ever since the Sukhu government was installed fourteen months ago. A strong faction headed by Pratibha Singh, the former Pradesh Congress chief and widow of the former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, was never reconciled to the choice of Sukhu as chief minister. In fact, sensing his opportunity when Sukhu was feeling cornered, Pratibha Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh, PWD minister in the Sukhu government, announced his resignation, lamenting the drift in the affairs of the party. He said he was humiliated in the government, suggesting that the CM did not allow him to function. That he harboured ambition to become the CM was a public secret in Himachal Pradesh. At a press conference called to announce his resignation on Wednesday, he blamed the CM for disrespecting the wishes of the people who wanted a statute of his late father Virbhadra Singh, a six-time HP chief minister, in the State capital, Shimla. Having ignored the dissidence in the party, senior Congress leaders now accused the BJP of trying to topple the party government in the State, and thus, disrespect the popular mandate. Of course, such finger-pointing was pointless when a few days before the RS poll senior party leader Anand Sharma openly protested at the nomination of Sighvi for the lone seat in the State. Sharma said that never before had the Congress nominated an “outsider” to the RS from the State. But senior Congress leaders failed to sense trouble even after Sharma’s’ warning. Given the precarious position of the party in the Assembly following the revolt by the six legislators, and the opposition BJP with the help of the three Independents nearing the half-way mark in the 60-member Assembly, only a miracle can save the Congress government, especially if it does not replace Sukhu as chief minister.

Now from one of the smallest States in the Union to the largest. In UP, the RS poll exposed the precarious hold of the Samajwadi Party Supremo on the party MLAs. Seven SP MLAs voted against the party candidate, and in favour of the BJP’s eighth candidate, Sanjay Seth, thus denying the third seat to the SP candidate, Alok Ranjan. The seven SP MLAs who cross-voted cited the non-participation of the party leadership in the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple for fear of alienating the large Muslim vote in the state. On the other hand, the seven maintained that they were keen to attend the Ayodhya ceremony but were barred by the party leadership against it. Clearly, the seven might switch to the BJP once the SP leadership takes disciplinary action against them. The strain in the SP ranks does not augur well for the I.N.D.I.A alliance. The SP- Congress seat-sharing alliance cannot remain insulated should the SP weaken further after the RS polls. Also, in case the Gandhis choose to contest from Amethi and Rai Bareily, hitherto family bastions, they will need the active support of the SP to put in a decent fight. The RS poll has exposed the chinks in the SP armour. Undoubtedly, the BJP too suffered a minor blow when one of its MLAs in Karnataka voted against the party candidate, who won nonetheless, while another abstained from voting. The outcome in Karnataka was however on expected lines. Meanwhile, the Congress should stop complaining too much. It should bear in mind that the greatest act of party indiscipline was in 1969 when Indira Gandhi after duly filing the nomination papers of the Congress candidate for the President’s post, voted against him and in favour of the independent candidate, V V Giri. Also, the first time a popularly elected government was in 1959 when the Nehru government dismissed EMS Namboodiripad’s first Communist government in Kerala. The short point is politics all along has defied conventional morality. There is nothing new that the BJP is doing which the Congress has not done before — and done it on multiple numbers of time. Naked power politics knows no norms, no proprieties. Sadly, that is what politics has been all along.

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