While Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar chose to resign on Saturday and seek a fresh mandate amid deepening fissures within the ruling JD(U) that threatened to destabilise his government, especially in the wake of the NDA’s swashbuckling performance in the state in the Lok Sabha elections, the same could have a pinball effect on many non-NDA CMs who are under pressure from within after their party’s or coalition’s rout in their respective states. After the Congress’s worst-ever defeat in parliamentary elections, there are strong murmurs in the party against vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s and his team’s style of functioning. As it is, the Nehru-Gandhi family remains beyond any reproach. Therefore, even as the Congress Working Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday, family loyalists are said to be looking for a scapegoat — rather many of them. Rahul might have run a centralised poll campaign but the accountability could be decentralised. That is what has put pressure on many party CMs. Assam CM Tarun Gogoi, one of the senior leaders who has been a witness and participant to many such exercises in the past, has already offered to quit. There are many others who are likely to face the heat. “After such a mandate, governments (in non-NDA-ruled states) may lose. We will not do anything to destabilise them but they may face trouble internally,” said a BJP strategist.
CM Prithviraj Chavan is said to be under tremendous pressure after the Congress-NCP coalition’s rout, together ending up with just six out of 48 seats in the state, which is slated to go for Assembly polls towards the end of the year. Chavan has always faced criticism from within the Congress for being more of an administrator than a politician even as he is known to have frequent run-ins with NCP leaders. NCP general secretary D P Tripathi on Saturday refused to go into the reasons for the debacle saying, “We have not yet taken any official position, but we have emerged as a bigger party than the Congress. We won four seats while they won just two.” NCP sources, however, attributed the coalition’s loss to the “CM’s performance”. “It’s the Congress leadership who have to think whether they want a leadership change in the state,” said an NCP source. Chavan rejected any suggestion of a change of guard in the state. “I have already issued a statement over the results,” he told The Sunday Express. Given that elections are just six months away and there are not many contenders after former Union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s comprehensive loss in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress high command may not like to rock the boat at this stage notwithstanding pressures from within.
Loyalist in trouble
After the Congress’s unexpectedly poor show in the LS elections in Assam, CM Tarun Gogoi on Saturday declared that he will resign “within a week”. In December last year, he had announced that he would resign if the Congress got less than seven seats in the state; the party ended up with three. “When you win three terms as CM, some amount of arrogance and complacency sets in. This was, of course, the case with me as well as the party. We thought nobody could defeat us. We forgot that we had lost earlier. This is the first debacle since I am here. Probably there was a communication gap with the people,” he said in Guwahati. Gogoi has obviously given himself some time so as to sense his leadership’s mood after Monday’s CWC meeting. He has long faced dissidence from his Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is said to have the backing of some senior Central leaders. Apart from the Modi wave, internecine fight in the Congress was also attributed to the party’s drubbing in the LS elections. It is to be seen whether the Congress high command accepts his resignation to put an end to the infighting in the state unit of the party. Congress sources said that holding the CM responsible for the party’s performance could open a “Pandora’s Box” and the leadership was conscious of this.
The caste cauldron
CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s detractors in the party are learnt to have become active after the Congress’s poor show in the state. Only the CM’s son and Rohtak MP Deepender Singh Hooda could retain his seat in the election, which saw the decimation of party candidates everywhere else. The CM’s detractors have been increasingly putting pressure on the party high command for a change of leadership in the state, claiming that Hooda’s has become a “Jat-centric” administration that has alienated other castes. It was to placate this section that Congress president had handed over the reins of the state unit to young Dalit leader Ashok Tanwar, who is close to Rahul. Some leaders are impressing on the Central leadership that the party needs to re-visit the issue of its “shrinking social base” that is getting limited to “one community” and should project a new face. Apart from the fact that Hooda has been a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist and has run the administration efficiently, what might deter the high command from going for any change in leadership is that the Assembly polls are barely four months away and any experiment now could backfire.
Not the favourite
That there is no love lost between CM Virbhadra Singh and the Congress high command is no secret. He had forced the latter to appoint him PCC chief and give his loyalists tickets in the last Assembly polls to ensure his election as CM post-polls. Central leadership was miffed by his defiance, but went along with him because of his proven popularity in the state. The CM and his family were accused of corruption by BJP a few months ago. Although Virbhadra’s detractors pounced on the opportunity to press for a change of guard in the state, the Congress high command kept quiet in view of the LS elections. In the mean time, the CM was reportedly running the administration “independently” without consulting the high command even in the appointment of chairpersons of boards and corporations. It did not go down well with the party leadership in Delhi but they chose to ignore it due to the coming elections. Now that the BJP has swept the state and even the CM’s wife has lost election, there are enough reasons for Virbhadra to start worrying.
Jammu & kashmir
Friends & foes
With coalition partners Congress and the National Conference drawing a blank, the long-simmering tension between the two is likely to aggravate in coming weeks. For over a year, state Congress leaders have been complaining about the functioning of Omar Abdullah government, but every time they sought to escalate it to the Congress president’s level, his friendship with Rahul ensured that they beat a hasty retreat. State Congress leaders were learnt to have told A K Antony-led sub-committee on pre-poll alliances that the Congress should go alone in the state in the Assembly polls. A section of the Congress has also been in favour of allying with the PDP, which is said to be keen on it. Ahead of the Assembly polls slated towards the year-end, the Congress is likely to turn the heat on Omar. While Rahul has always stood by him, it will be clear in coming weeks whether the Congress vice-president will continue to support him pro-actively or go with the state leadership that is not very keen on continuing the alliance.
The SP’s capitulation on the home turf in the LS elections is likely to force party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to have a hard look at his son Akhilesh’s performance as CM. The son had emerged as a rallying force for the youth in the Assembly polls about two years back. But his lackadaisical performance drove them to the BJP fold as was evident from the way they thronged Narendra Modi’s rallies in the state. There were also obvious dents in the SP’s core votebank of Yadavs and Muslims. Although the SP’s main rival, BSP came a cropper in terms of seats; it came second on 34 seats, clearly indicating that Akhilesh administration hasn’t really impressed the people. After the SP’s poor show in the general elections, Mulayam is set to come under pressure from the party’s rank and file to either himself replace Akhilesh or bring in somebody else like Shivpal Yadav.
Jharkhand & Uttarakhand
The Congress-supported Hemant Soren government in Jharkhand and Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand could face trouble in the wake of BJP’s spectacular victory. While the Congress regime in Dehradun looked relatively safe with the tally of 36, including three BSP and one UKD MLAs, in a 70-member Assembly, the figures include loyalists of Satpal Maharaj who had quit the Congress to join the BJP just ahead of the LS elections. Hemant Soren, on the other hand, is precariously placed and may need the vote of the Speaker to save his government in the event of a no-trust motion. Given that Assembly polls are slated early next year, he may find it difficult to keep his flock together.
After the clean sweep in Delhi, the BJP may be keen to go for Assembly elections to capitalise on the Modi wave. Given that the Aam Admi Party came second on all the seven seats, the BJP is said to be reluctant to give any time to the AAP to consolidate its gains or the Congress to recoup. Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung is likely to come under a huge pressure to go for elections.
WITH ENS INPUTS