Updated: June 25, 2021 8:08:39 am
Ever since its poor performance in the 2014 general elections — repeated in 2019 — there has been little or no reprieve from crisis for the Congress party. The problems it is beset by are many — a leadership vacuum at the top, an inability to forge a cogent ideological position to combat the BJP, a slide in states where it was a major pole of politics. But Congress now seems to be floundering even in the few states where it is ahead, and has a government. The high command’s public put-down of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is a case in point.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and the party’s top leadership must, of course, deal with the factionalism that seems to be plaguing the government and party in Punjab. Yet, why would they not meet, and be seen not to meet, a veteran party leader and chief minister amid inner party turbulence? On Wednesday, reportedly, even as Rahul Gandhi met Congress leaders from Punjab, including the state party chief and the finance minister, Singh, who travelled to Delhi in the midst of a pandemic, was only given “deadlines” by the high command, ostensibly to fulfil promises made by the party in 2017. Wouldn’t a frank discussion between the central leadership and the party’s tallest leader in Punjab behind closed doors have been more productive than schoolmarmish assignments? Under Amarinder Singh, Congress in Punjab managed to stave off the Modi wave in both 2014 and 2019. In the 2017 assembly elections, along with defeating the ruling NDA, Congress also managed to keep the AAP at bay. The events of the last few days only signal that its unceasing decline has not taught the Congress to show respect to its regional leadership.
Punjab is set to go to the polls in early 2022. The state is also the epicentre of the ongoing farmers’ agitation. At the national level, the BJP is in a less commanding position after its defeat in West Bengal and questions over the Centre’s handling of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Framing a response to these political challenges and opportunities will require a united front. This will need the Congress’s central leadership to resolve conflicts within state units with tact and wisdom.
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