The dire dramas playing out in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are illustrative of the problems and predicament that the Congress finds itself in
The biggest worry in the Congress camp right now may not be whether it will win the 2019 general elections or not. The major concern could be over what will happen to some of the state governments that it is in charge or part of.
In an election campaign strategy, that reflects very badly on the Congress high command, the party seems to have alienated its existing allies in some states more than it has managed to target its supposed political rivals.
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The dire dramas playing out in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are illustrative of the problems and predicament that the Congress finds itself in.
In Madhya Pradesh, the situation is such that the incumbent Kamal Nath's government is teetering on a tantalising edge as the BSP and SP are threatening to pull back their support. Nath government is propped up by three MLAs of the BSP and one MLA of the SP (aside from four independents) in the 230-member Assembly. Shorn of these eight MLAs' backing, the Congress stands to lose its majority as it has only 113 members of its own.
But why is Mayawati and Akhilesh unhappy? Well, the Congress has poached BSP candidate from Guna constituency (which goes to polls on May 12), Lokendra Singh Rajput. Mayawati has not taken too kindly to this purloining of her party member, and she hit back at the Congress' chutzpah with an angry tweet: "The BSP candidate was intimidated and threatened and forced to drop out but the BSP will give a reply by contesting under its own symbol and will also consider whether to continue its support to the state Congress government."
But why did the Congress trigger a crisis for itself by needling an ally? Well, party insiders say that it is because of the turf war between Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia.
The duo has been sparring at each other ever since the Congress high command anointed Nath as Madhya Pradesh chief minister, and their jousting has already come in the way of governance and also affected the election campaign in the state, say sources.
Now, more than the campaign, the party unit in the state has to focus on mollifying Mayawati and Akhilesh before they get down to actualising their threats.
In Karnataka, the already tenuous relationship between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) has come under further strain because of the fractious nature of the campaign. In places like Tumakuru, Mandya (and in general in the Mysuru belt), the two allies were openly having a go at each other brazenly.
The state of the ties came tumbling out when Karnataka minister and senior JD (S) leader GT Deve Gowda said that his party workers may have voted for the BJP in some seats in the Lok Sabha elections because of “differences in the Congress-JD(S) ruling alliance in the state."
This is not the first time that leaders of both the parties are trading blows at each other since May 2018 when they fell into a hurried, unconvincing alliance in the state.
The general belief in the state is that if the alliance group does not do well in the general elections then the days of HD Kumaraswamy government are probably numbered.
In a state like Rajasthan, the infighting within the Congress itself is proving to be a major problem. The run ins between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot (Gehlot son's candidature in Jodhpur was opposed by Pilot) is now the talking point in the state.
Political pundits feel that much of the problem that plagues the Congress is a reflection how weakened is the Congress at the top. "If the leadership is firm and focused, you'd not have such inner wranglings," says a miffed party member in Karnataka.
The problem for the leadership is it is unsure whether it wants to grow the party or stop the BJP's rise. It is a conundrum that Rahul Gandhi is faced with. But Rahul and team are perhaps erring by focusing a bit here and focusing a bit there. And in the event, they are inevitably neither here nor there.
Post-polls, irrespective of the results, the Congress needs to do a lot of soul-searching on how it should deal with allies.
Right now, it seems it has not shed its hubris when it comes to allies. Despite its steadily eroding base, the Congress still perhaps thinks too highly of itself. In this campaign, it has already antagonised the TDP, AAP, the Left, SP, BSP, JD (S), TMC.
When you lose friends, no war can ever be won.
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Last Updated 2, May 2019, 3:36 PM