As State units gain an upper hand, Cong high command feels the heat

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on March 19, 2019 Published on March 19, 2019

A weak Congress high command is straining under pressure from local units, which are resisting alliances and pushing their preferred candidates even as behind-the-scenes parleys are still being conducted, especially with the Aam Aadmi Partry (AAP) in Delhi.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar met the Congress president Rahul Gandhi and senior leaders Ahmad Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge on Tuesday morning. Pawar also had a meeting with AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in the afternoon. While AAP leader Gopal Rai said there is no alliance with the Congress, the AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “I have not heard Gopal Rai’s press conference.”

However, the party high command is having a difficult time dealing with strong regional leaders and local units. The final say in deciding candidates — unlike in the past when the party high command used to have the last word — now rests with the local units and regional leaders.

For example, senior leader KV Thomas, a loyal lieutenant of the Gandhi family, was denied a ticket apparently after pressure from senior Kerala leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala.

“Such developments are never heard of in the past. Except Shashi Tharoor, almost all Congress candidates belong to groups within the party. Their loyalty is not to the high command. Certain leaders are misusing the current situation to strengthen their factions in the party. This will hamper the party,” a senior Congress leader said, adding that if the Congress is not a united house, the minority votes may go to the Left as “anti-Modi sentiments” are strong in Kerala.

‘No coordination in party’

The lack of coordination at the Centre was visible in stitching of alliances at the State level. In Delhi, the State unit, particularly veteran leader Sheila Dikshit, is up against any alliance with the ruling party — AAP. But AICC in-charge of the State PC Chacko and former PCC president Ajay Maken favour an alliance. “Ideally, the high command should have taken a decision and asked the State unit to implement it. But somehow things are not working in a proper manner,” another leader said. The leader also said that the pre-poll alliance sub-group headed by senior leader AK Antony has not had a meeting in the recent past. “The panel should have advised the high command about the pros and cons of alliance,” the leader added. In West Bengal too, the high command wanted an alliance with the Left parties, but the State unit vetoed it. The Congress has now started announcing the names for 42 constituencies in the State. The Left Front has said that it will wait till Wednesday before starting to file nominations against the Congress candidates in the four seats where it had won in 2014.

Meanwhile, in Bihar too, the alliance has faced fresh troubles. The ultimatum set by the RJD was over on Sunday. AICC general secretary Shaktisinh Gohil had told BusinessLine that a formal announcement will be made on Sunday, but it did not happen.

Published on March 19, 2019
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