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Slew of exits add to troubles for Congress

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-04-2017 Anuja

New Delhi: An exodus of Congress leaders to join arch rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that began with the Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh state polls continues unabated, highlighting problems in India’s oldest national party that has faced a string of electoral defeats in the last three years.

Several top-level exits have taken place in poll-bound Karnataka and more recently Delhi, where local municipal corporation polls concluded on Sunday.

Last week, Amarinder Singh Lovely, a senior Congress leader from Delhi who was a minister in the state government led by Sheila Dikshit joined the BJP and lashed out at the inefficiency of the Congress central leadership. Lovely is the third former party state unit chief in the last six months to join the BJP after Yashpal Arya in Uttarakhand and Rita Bahuguna Joshi in Uttar Pradesh.

“These are all leaders who got a lot from the party, either in terms of position or importance. But they have chosen to change sides because not everyone stands up for the party in their difficult days. It hurts the party definitely because most of the leaders are very senior and come with a certain cadre following, but then we are left with no choice,” a senior parliamentarian from the Congress party said, requesting anonymity.

On the eve of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls, on Saturday, Congress leader Barkha Shukla Singh joined the BJP. Her exit was accompanied by what party leaders fear the most—a public lashing of the top leadership. She hit out at the central and state leaderships of the party, questioning their ability to lead, following which she was expelled from the Congress for anti-party activities.

“It is a growing problem which began with our loss in the 2014 state polls. The bigger worry for the party is that even after three years, such an exodus continues mainly because the party has performed poorly in several state polls and the top leadership has made no systemic efforts to revamp the internal organisation—until that happens, several leaders are bound to be unhappy and some would chose to change sides,” a Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh said requesting anonymity.

Several senior Congress leaders have joined the BJP in the recent past and have been appointed to key posts. They include Himanta Biswa Sarma who is the convener of North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and was made the finance minister of Assam; Union ministers Rao Inderjit Singh and Chaudhary Birender Singh from Haryana; and both Arya and Joshi who were also made state ministers. Last month, former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna too joined the BJP.

“Congress is the oldest national political party in the country and its decline should be a serious worry for its leaders. Many senior leaders feel they have no future in the party particularly because the top leadership has taken no lessons from the electoral losses,” said S.K. Dwivedi, a political analyst and professor of political science, Lucknow University.

“The party is reeling from dynastic politics where only a limited set of leaders hold importance making those below them disgruntled. The party needs to introspect and look at a total organisational revamp,” he added.

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