When the Centre does not hold, chaos and collapse become inevitable. With elections for new Assemblies in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Delhi due later in the year, the Congress Party is not exactly getting itself into a fighting-fit form given the way it has conducted itself following its spectacular loss in the Lok Sabha poll. The defeat ought to have spurred a quiet reflection and introspection. Instead, it has led to a complete confusion and disarray.
Rahul Gandhi owing moral responsibility for the loss and quitting as party chief ought to have marked a new beginning in a party where such high regard for principled leadership has always been at a low premium. After all, his mother, Sonia Gandhi, did not come forward with her resignation when in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll the party was reduced to a mere 44 seats. At least, the son has marginally improved the tally to 52. But that is beside the point. Having at last accepted his resignation as party chief, the party leadership, or whatever passes for it, ought to have been wise enough to fill the vacuum and thus end the drift and despair that has set in its lower orders. It is this drift and dithering that has found its reflection in the unseemly goings-on in the party units in Karnataka, Goa and elsewhere. Soon after the Lok Sabha hammering, the Telangana Congress MLAs were the first to defect to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, describing the Congress as a ‘sinking ship.’ Admittedly, the crisis in the Karnataka Congress was brewing for a long time.
The formation of the JD(S)-Congress alliance after last year’s Assembly poll was meant to deny power to the BJP, the single largest group with 106 MLAs, as against JD(S)’s 36 and Congress’s 78. It was unlikely to survive for long. The Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah was on record saying at the time of formation of the Kumaraswamy Government that keeping the alliance going till the Lok Sabha election was a necessity. After the Lok Sabha poll, Siddaramaiah and others, unhappy with the JD (S) tail wagging the Congress dog, may no longer feel any such compulsion to ensure the longevity of the unnatural alliance. Besides, the complete wipe-out of the alliance in the Lok Sabha poll with the Congress failing to win a single seat, and the JD(S) only one, would have been another potent reason for the MLAs to jump the sinking ship, especially when the central leadership itself was down in the dumps, evoking little confidence in its ability to rise, regroup and put the party back on an even keel.
Remember, politicians have their ears to the ground, moving over to the winning side at the first available opportunity. Seen from this perspective, the defections from the Congress to the BJP in Goa and Karnataka make sense, though it is hard to justify them on ethical and even legal grounds.
Meanwhile, the tussle for power in Karnataka has reached the highest court in the land. In the fitness of things, the Speaker should not exploit discretion to delay pronouncing on the resignations of the MLAs. If they are technically in order, he cannot, and should not, sit on them for long. The delay in accepting the resignations might have given an opportunity to the Kumaraswamy government to list a trust-vote in the Assembly but this is unlikely to save his ministry for long.
The reason for not accepting the resignations was clearly meant to allow the party leaders to try and persuade the leavers to change their mind, which is clear from the urgent entreaties of senior JD(S)-Congress leaders to the defecting MLAs. But even if they succeed in delaying the fall of the Kumaraswamy Government for a few more days, its fall sooner than later is inevitable. It is because thus far the only glue that kept it afloat was anti-BJPism. Now that BJP has emerged as a winning platform, and the Congress is a rudderless ship losing its way in the high sea waters of Indian politics, it is proving hard for politicians to resist its attractions. It is this that the Congress ought to be worried about, instead of it feeling clueless about its new leadership structure.