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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Express View | Hardik’s Congress problem: RG’s chicken sandwiches

From biscuits to sandwiches, Congress has an image problem as leaders seek better pastures

By: Editorial | New Delhi |
May 18, 2022 5:44:43 pm
Hardik Patel, who quit the party today, has blamed his exit on the leadership’s “hatred” of India, Gujarat and Gujaratis and the youth of the nation. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty/File)

Three months ago, Rahul Gandhi’s “high command mindset” had come in for sharp criticism from Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who chided him for once feeding his dog in the presence of leaders from the state and then offering them “the same biscuits” — a callback to the incident that Sarma had described as being the impetus for his resignation from the party. The same “mindset” is the target of some rather thinly-veiled criticism in the Congress’s latest resignation saga: Hardik Patel, who quit the party today, has blamed his exit on the leadership’s “hatred” of India, Gujarat and Gujaratis and the youth of the nation, even as it remains preoccupied with “chicken sandwiches”.

In his trilingual resignation letter, posted on Twitter, Patel is scathing about what he sees as the many failures of the Congress. Much of the letter bemoans the various ways in which he says the party has “insulted” Gujaratis (including, predictably, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel),the alleged venality of the Gujarat Congress and the national leadership’s lack of a proactive opposition agenda. Running through these complaints, however, is a charge that has long bedevilled the Congress — that the leadership’s elitism and absorption in “trivial things” (pet dogs, foreign vacations, parties and, now, chicken sandwiches) have led it to lose touch with the masses.

With the BJP looking to consolidate its hold over Gujarat in the state assembly polls later this year and the AAP threatening to spoil whatever chance the Congress has, a kerfuffle about chicken sandwiches is the last thing the party leadership needs. It could, of course, be said that with electoral prospects on the line, it is Patel who is chickening out of a tough battle by leaving what he sees as a sinking ship. On the other hand, considering that the much-hyped Chintan Shivir in Udaipur, which concluded on Sunday, also failed to address the leadership question, perhaps it is the Congress that is chickening away from addressing its real problem.

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