Ajit Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh, is a controversial politician. Earlier this year, he was asked by the Congress to explain his alleged involvement in the “fixing” of the Antagarh assembly bypoll in 2014 to facilitate the victory of the BJP’s candidate, an issue that also saw the expulsion of his son, Amit Jogi, from the party. Now, as Ajit Jogi complains about an unresponsive high command, threatens to launch a new political outfit and wishes the Congress “shubh ratri” in the state, the party could shrug away news of his exit — or it could worry. For one, a new party may arguably alter the nature of the contest in Chhattisgarh to the Congress’s disadvantage. A third force, if it takes off, could potentially cut into Congress support in what has so far been a bipolar contest in the state. But more urgently, the Jogi departure is part of a larger Congress pattern, firming up across states, featuring walkouts by regional bosses who complain that the party’s central leadership did not give them a hearing.
It could be that Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh, Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam and Vijay Bahuguna in Uttarakhand are only taking a swipe at the high command as they leave the party because it is easy to do so at a time when the Congress is at a political low. But that should still be reason for the Congress to pause and ask itself: Why is the ebb in Congress fortunes beginning to look irreversible? The spreading pessimism about the Congress is taking a toll on a party that, since 2014, is already pared down to some of its poorest tallies in the Lok Sabha and in state assemblies. In Assam, for instance, the BJP’s recent victory was in large measure seen to be aided and abetted by its success in energetically attracting leaders and heavyweights from other parties, including Himanta Biswa Sarma, even as the Congress seemed to be a lesser, more deflated version of itself. To be sure, all parties have highs and lows and politics often moves in cyclical ways, but it is also true that in recent times the Congress seems to be ceding space far more often than it shows any signs of political retrieval.
The party must worry about the apparent remoteness of its high command as it seems to lose life force in the states. For an organisation that seems to be on a downward slide, such a disconnect only makes a recovery look even farther away.