Senior Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan’s resignation might have been termed by the grand old party as yet another “opportunist” quitting, but the dramatic exit has jolted the party, already weakened by a series of debacles.
Since the May 2014 electoral debacle, several senior leaders, including Chaudhary Birendra Singh, Krishna Tirath, G K Vasan, all disenchanted with the ‘rudderless’ party, quit, pointing fingers at the top leadership. Matters were made worse by electoral setbacks in most of the Assembly elections the Congress has fought since May — Haryana, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, and Jharkhand. The results of these elections underscored the inability of the top leadership — Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and president Sonia Gandhi — to hold the party together.
A leader conceded that with Delhi polls on the anvil, Natarajan’s explosive letter to Sonia Gandhi and the press conference in which she launched an attack on Rahul Gandhi might not damage the party overtly but had the potential to affect the “perception” of the Congress. “Rahul Gandhi’s image has taken a beating in the eyes of the voter and giving the impression that in a Congress-led government, decisions are taken by the party high command (top leadership) and not the elected head,” said the senior leader cited above.
The list of seniors who questioned the top leadership and quit is long — Haryana leaders Birendra Singh and Rao Inderjit Singh; J S Brar from Punjab, who was also a Congress Working Committee member; former shipping minister G K Vasan; and, most recently, Krishna Tirath, who even proclaimed “there is no discipline in the party”.
The Congress under Rahul Gandhi might have been engaged for the past nine months in a tedious exercise of speaking to the rank and file on how to overhaul the party, but the wait has been too long and by all accounts, will not be through before August. With no revival blueprint in sight, more than one Congress leader has extolled the “leadership” qualities in Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
So, when Sonia Gandhi confidant Janardan Dwivedi had a word of praise for Modi and how he represented quintessential Indianness and how his victory was a victory of Indianness, it shook the very core of the party. The party was swift in slamming the veteran leader officially. When member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor, who had been named a brand ambassador for PM’s Swachh Bharat mission, had praised Modi, the party ticked him off, but it wasn’t as scathing as Dwivedi’s.