Congress faces tough task to keep its flock together after LS rout

New Delhi, ┬áThe Congress is facing a tough task to keep its flock together after the party’s dismal performance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections as several leaders from Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and the Telangana have either quit the party or spoken against the leadership.

On Thursday, 12 out of 18 Telangana Congress MLAs called on state Assembly Speaker P. Srinivas Reddy and submitted a letter seeking the legislature party’s merger with the ruling TRS. They later went to Pragati Bhavan, the official residence of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao.

In Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu skipped the Cabinet meeting being chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. Addressing reporters after the cabinet meeting, Sidhu said he could not be taken for granted.

He refuted charges of poor performance in elections.

Sidhu provided “facts” to prove that the Congress performed well in the Lok Sabha elections in urban areas too, and made it clear that he could not be taken for granted as he had been a performer throughout his life — be it in cricket, showbiz or politics.

The war of words between the Chief Minister and Sidhu intensified after Amarinder Singh blamed Sidhu for the Congress’ poor performance in the state’s urban areas and said his actions during the parliamentary elections had not only harmed him but also Rahul Gandhi.

The cause of the provocation was Sidhu’s controversial remarks on the sacrilege issue. He also blamed the Chief Minister for denial of party ticket to his wife from Chandigarh.

In Maharastra, Rajasthan and Karnataka, the party’s state units faced similar problems.

Amid the rift in the Rajasthan Congress over the Lok Sabha debacle, PR Meena, a Congress MLA on Thursday said Ashok Gehlot should be replaced with his deputy Sachin Pilot as the state Chief Minister.

“The biggest reason for the Lok Sabha debacle is that Pilot was not made the Chief Minister. Gehlot should be held responsible for this defeat. A young face should be made the Chief Minister,” the MLA from Todabheem said.

Pointing out that Gehlot had led the Congress to defeat in Assembly elections in the past too, he said it was necessary to make Pilot helm the government in Rajasthan.

“When I say that Pilot should be made CM, I am emphasising on his impact due to which we got a majority in the Assembly elections,” Meena said.

“That’s why I say that Pilot should be made the CM. Out of 46 seats in eastern Rajasthan, the Congress won 43 seats in Assembly elections.”

On Tuesday, the Maharashtra unit of the Congress hurtled into yet another crisis, with senior leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil formally quitting the party, before meeting Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The former leader of opposition in the state assembly, Patil is expected to join the Bharatiya Janata Party.

In the recently concluded general elections, Vikhe-Patil’s son Sujay was elected from the Ahmadnagar Lok Sabha constituency on a BJP ticket.

Similarly, the Congress-Janata Dal-Secular government in Karnataka continues to sink deeper into trouble after the Lok Sabha rout as former state Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy has said he was promised a cabinet berth and nothing has been done about it.

In a Facebook post, Reddy said, “The atmosphere is not good for seniors in the party.” The former minister noted that he has been sidelined and that the seniors should be given priority.

Reddy said, “If Congress needs to face tough questions in the coming days, it needs to take care of its seniors who have been sidelined in both party and government. Seniors should be given priority and for this seniors should come together and discuss.”

Earlier in the day, the Congress described the development in Telangana as a “daylight murder of democracy”. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said, “The way the people’s mandate and democratic norms are being butchered, it’s a daylight murder of democracy.”

“Just because somebody is in power, has access to resources and can control agencies does not mean he can misuse his power,” Khera said.

“These Congress MLAs were elected after the voters rejected the TRS. This is the murder of people’s mandate. India may ignore it today, but it will never forget disrespect of mandate,” he said.

When asked about Sidhu not joining the Cabinet meeting, he said, “Party’s Punjab in-charge Asha Kumari is looking into the matter and she will intervene in the matter accordingly”.

After the party’s dismal performance in the general election where it could manage to win only 52 out of 542 seats, several state presidents and Congress campaign committee members have offered to step down from the post taking moral responsibility of the loss.

On May 25, Congress President Rahul Gandhi during the Congress Working Committee offered to step down.

However, his demand to step down was unanimously rejected by the CWC, the party’s top decision-making body.