By Ashis Biswas
In an ironic reversal of their assigned roles, regional Congress leaders are currently handling a scathing political attack on their party by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with greater confidence than their supposedly exalted High command Delhi-based leadership, post recent Assembly elections.
Its recent drubbing in the five state Assembly elections, as expected, has further exacerbated the formidable challenges that lie ahead of India’s largest opposition party, with only a few months left for General elections 2024. The post election situation is in some ways worse than what has gone before.
While the BJP’s gloating over the results is understandable, the public rebuff from the so-called Congress ‘allies’ in their refusal to attend the December 6 meeting called by party President Mr Mallikarjun Kharge , came as another cruel reminder of their present decline.
In the Northeast and East, it has fallen upon state Congress leaders to rally round the dwindling number of desolate party followers/supporters. To their credit, it needs stating that they are doing their best.
Example one , from Assam : Mr Sanjeeb Roy, a Silchar-based Congress leader in Assam, has pointed out that even in these tough times, the party has won more aggregate votes than the BJP in the four states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana. The final figures show a total of 4,90,69,462 votes for the Congress as against 4,81,29,325 won by the BJP.
According to a Barak-valley based daily, Mr Roy claimed that such mass support for India’s grand old party even in its worst times , indicated that the recent ’ Bharat Jodo Yatra’ programme carried out by Mr Rahul Gandhi had made a definite impact nationally. It was another matter that somehow such a massive electoral support did not quite materialize in the number of Assembly seats won.
Mr Roy’s commendable insight went generally under-reported in the Assam mass media. He reportedly called upon Congressmen, supporters and leaders not to lose heart over the recent results and prepare with greater energy than before to launch a fresh battle against the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha polls — present indications were not necessarily all negative!
Contrast this with the reaction of more weighty Guwahati-based Congress leaders. State party present Mr Bhupen Bora had predicted a rout for the BJP in all five states including Mizoram. The local press reported in detail his claim that on the day of counting, supplies of ‘abir’ (coloured powder used in celebrations) would run out as common people would cheer a massive Congress win !
A few hours later Mr Bora was reduced to admitting defeat, alleging that his party had been drubbed in an unprincipled battle by the BJP, in the manner of the Kouravas unfairly killing Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata epic !
Needless to add, his ‘clarification’ led to much local merriment generally, while not necessarily enhancing the party’s prestige! According to local reports, senior BJP leader and state Minister Mr Pijush Hazarika protested, calling on Mr Bora not to insult the electorate, urged him to resign.
In neighbouring West Bengal, veteran Congress leader and state party President Mr Adhir Choudhury put up a plucky defence for its electoral meltdown in the five states. Going on an offensive mode, he took on the so-called allies of the Congress in the new I.N.D.I Alliance. Singling out the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, he alleged that it had not really joined the anti-BJP election campaign.
‘Not for once’. Said Mr Choudhury, as quoted by Bengal media newsmen, ‘had any TMC leader, from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee downwards, issued any public call for voters to defeat the BJP in the five states. No TMC leader assisted the opposition campaign which was carried out by the Congress alone, in any way in the five states! Such a stand-off attitude only fed current speculation suggesting the TMC and the BJP, for al their public protestations to the contrary, actually helped each other politically’, he said.
As for the party’s high command, there was no substantive explanation yet for its defeat. Senior leaders were meeting among themselves informally in Delhi and in the neighbouring states, waiting for the next move to be signalled by top leaders.
Choudhury too did not explain why the Congress lost. His targeting the TMC was deliberate. Only Hours earlier, TMC general Secretary Abhishek Banerjee MP had advised Congress leaders to shed their egoism and sort out inner party problems, learning from their recent defeat. The party must rethink its relationship with its I.N.D.I.A partners and work out an affective political campaign. There was not much time to lose.
Congress sources said these words had not brought much pleasure to senior Congress leaders in the state. On their side TMC sources have repeatedly stressed that a pre-election seat adjustment with its allies going into these five states — as suggested by Ms Mamata Banerjee but not carried out — would have helped the Congress avoid its debacle. (IPA Service)