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  4. OPINION | AHEAD OF LS POLLS, CONGRESS FACING REVOLTS IN STATES

OPINION | AHEAD OF LS POLLS, CONGRESS FACING REVOLTS IN STATES

Tuesday (February 27) was a day of severe jolts for the Congress-led anti-Modi alliance. There were revolts in the Congress and Samajwadi Party, the two main constituents of the alliance.

Rajat Sharma Written By: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Updated on: February 29, 2024 6:07 IST
India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma
Image Source : INDIA TV India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma

Tuesday (February 27) was a day of severe jolts for the Congress-led anti-Modi alliance. There were revolts in the Congress and Samajwadi Party, the two main constituents of the alliance. Seven Congress MLAs voted for BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha election resulting in the defeat of Congress candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The Congress government led by Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu seemed to have lost its majority. Political developments are taking at a fast pace in Shimla, with the Congress high command sending its top troubleshooters to avert the crisis. In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav lost his political prestige, when six of his party MLAs voted for the BJP, resulting in BJP winning 8 seats, while Samajwadi Party could manage to win only two seats. The third SP candidate lost. Reports of floor crossing also came from Bihar, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

 
HIMACHAL PRADESH
 
A revolt had been brewing in the Congress party in Himachal Pradesh for the last two weeks, when Harsh Mahajan, a key former aide of late CM Virbhadra Singh, joined BJP and became its candidate for Rajya Sabha election. In the assembly, BJP has 25 MLAs while the Congress has 43 MLAs. The Congress was overconfident about the victory of its candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Their leaders did not become alert,  when they noticed that one of their own men Harsh Mahajan has been fielded by BJP.  There were already reports that the BJP had fielded Mahajan in order to bring about a split in Congress. Yet the top brass of Congress remained complacent. The most interesting part was that the Congress MLA, who was the proposer for Singhvi’s nomination, cast his vote for BJP. Harsh Mahajan got the votes of six rebel Congress MLAs and three independents. In the end, both candidates secured 34 votes each, and the tie was finally broken through draw of lots. Mahajan was declared elected.  In the 2022 assembly election, Late Virbhadra Singh’s widow Pratibha Singh was the main claimant for CM post. Her son Vikramaditya Singh is a minister in Sukhu’s government. Political circles say, both the mother-son duo indirectly supported the revolt. If the Congress government falls, it will be a big embarrassment for the party. In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, I asked Jairam Thakur, BJP leader and former CM, why the Congress MLAs revolted. He replied, “this happened because of their pent-up anger. For the last 14 months, they were raising their voices inside and outside the Assembly, but the chief minister was not listening to them. At last, these MLAs listened to their voice of conscience. There is nothing hanky-panky about it….The chief minister should resign on moral grounds.” I asked Thakur how his party would be able to get support of more legislators to stake claim to form a government, given that they have got 34 votes now. Naturally, Thakur was reticent and he said he would not reveal his plans.
 
UTTAR PRADESH
 
The revolt in UP Samajwadi Party was also brewing when seven SP MLAs did not attend a dinner hosted by party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Monday night on the eve of Rajya Sabha elections. On Tuesday, when polling began, the seven SP MLAs went to the assembly with Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak to cast their vote. The biggest upset was when SP chief whip Manoj Pandey, the MLA from Unchahar seat in Raebareli district, resigned from his post and met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. All the seven MLAs claimed they voted according to their “conscience”, but their quotes in front of the cameras revealed their true intention. Akhilesh Yadav knew that his third candidate was going to be defeated because of the revolt. He took to social media to say that he had fielded the third candidate “to test the loyalty” of his MLAs. Later, he alleged in front of cameras that BJP tried to lure his party legislators, and that the MLAs could not resist pressures. The crossvoting in UP Rajya Sabha elections will surely have its effect on this year’s Lok Sabha polls. This is a severe jolt to both Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, and a big success to Yogi Adityanath’s management strategy. The revolt in SP may not only cause harm to Akhilesh Yadav, but also the Congress. Manoj Pandey, who resigned as SP chief whip, is a formidable leader from Raebareli. In the 2017 assembly elections, SP had won six out of seven assembly seats that fall inside Raebareli parliamentary constituency. In the 2022 assembly elections, BJP tried its best and snatched five seats from SP, but it could not defeat Manoj Pandey. There are speculations that Rahul Gandhi may contest from Raebareli instead of Amethi, and BJP may field Manoj Pandey to take on Rahul Gandhi. If that happens, Congress may also lose Sonia Gandhi’s Raebareli seat. Of course, anything can happen in future.
 
KARNATAKA
 
There was crossvoting in Karnataka too, but it did not affect the overall results. Congress won three seats and the BJP won one seat. The Janata Dal(S) candidate lost. BJP had 20 surplus votes to get the JD-S candidate Kupendra Reddy elected, but Reddy fell short of seven votes. None of the Congress legislators crossvoted, but BJP’s S T Somashekhar voted in favour of Congress. Another BJP MLA Shivaram Hebbar did not come to cast his vote. Congress is presently ruling Karnataka and two BJP MLAs did the mischief. So, should we assume that the Congress “bought” both the MLAs or put pressure on them? In Rajya Sabha elections, votes are not cast in favour of symbols but in favour of candidates. Hence, candidate selection and vote management play a major role. Akhilesh Yadav in UP and Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu in HP did not manage the elections properly and the parties faced revolts. In Karanataka, Congress strongman D K Shivkumar properly managed the election and all the three Congress candidates won. So, instead of learning lessons from defeats and doing introspection, Congress leaders are blaming the BJP for “purchasing” candidates. This will not help the party in the long run.
 
BIHAR
 
On Tuesday, in Bihar, two Congress MLAs – Murari Prasad Gautam and Siddharth Saurabh and one RJD MLA Sangeeta Kumari joined BJP. They were welcomed to the party by Deputy CM Samrat Chaudhary and were assigned treasury benches. All the three had voted in favour of the government defying party whip during vote on supplementary budget.  This was the second jolt to INDIA in Bihar. On February 12, 3 RJD MLAs had joined the BJP camp during the debate on motion of confidence by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Sangeeta Kumari is a Dalit leader from Mohania. At present, there are 19 Congress MLAs ion Bihar and there are speculations that twelve of them could leave the party before the Lok Sabha elections. BJP may field Murari Prasad Gautam, presently MLA from Rohtas district, from Sasaram Lok Sabha constituency.
 
MAHARASHTRA
 
In another jolt to the Congress, Maharashtra state party working president Basavaraj Patil Murmukar on Tuesday resigned from the party and joined BJP in the presence of Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis. A two-time MLA from Ausa, he is a prominent Lingayat leader from Marathwada region. A former minister, Basavaraj Patil’s quitting follows a chain of resignations in Maharashtra Congress. Earlier, former CM Ashok Chavan, former Union Minister Milind Deora and senior party leader Baba Siddique had quit the Congress.  Ashok Chavan joined BJP, while Milind Deora joined Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena. Both have been elected to Rajya Sabha. Baba Siddique joined the NCP led by Ajit Pawar.  
 
GUJARAT
 
In Gujarat, Rajya Sabha MP Naranbhai Rathwa resigned from Congress and joined BJP along with his son and supporters on Tuesday. He is a veteran Congress leader from Chhota Udepur and his joining the BJP is a major blow for Congress.
 
With so many desertions and revolts, the Congress high command appears to be in a state of stupor. Seat sharing talks in Bihar, Maharashtra and Gujarat are yet to be complete. Arvind Kejriwal has alreeady announced names of AAP candidates from Delhi and Haryana. The Congress leadership is waiting for a green signal from Rahul Gandhi, who has taken a five-day break from Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, to visit England to deliver two lectures at the Cambridge University. He will return to India after two days and resume his Yatra from March 2. Congress leaders are now left in a quandary. They are unable to decide whom to go to get clearances. Leaders who do not have any other options are waiting silently, and those who are getting opportunities, are carving their own paths. The problem before Congress leadership is: Rahul Gandhi is not realizing the gravity of the situation since his main battle is against Narendra Modi. Congress is yet to finalize seat-sharing in the states, and on the other hand, Narendra Modi is already off the mark and he is busy with his campaign in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and UP.

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