The only positive in a day signifying a deadly blow for the Congress was Kamal Nath’s decision to resign as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh two hours ahead of a trust vote that he was destined to lose. The already battered credibility of democratic institutions was spared yet another ignominious spectacle of horse-trading, claims and counter-claims of relative strength in the State Legislature. Kamal Nath correctly read the writing on the wall, displaying a political sense that he could have done well to deploy some months in advance.
That Jyotiraditya Scindia was disenchanted enough to quit hardly came as a surprise given the rather jarring notes he had been striking for over six months; he even broke the party line and supported the BJP on a critical issue like abrogation of Article 370. Nath and his comrade, former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, cannot escape the charge that they let a State as important as Madhya Pradesh slip out of the Congress’s grasp merely by denying an assured Rajya Sabha seat to Scindia. There is precious little to be said about the ethics or a lack of them in Scindia’s switchover to the BJP, which fulfilled its end of the bargain by fielding him as the party nominee for the Rajya Sabha. What is noteworthy is the collapse of the central leadership and command structure in the Congress.
The BJP was typically ahead of the curve; ruthlessly negotiating the resignation of 22 Congress MLAs along with Scindia to ensure the government’s collapse in MP. Congress President Sonia Gandhi was virtually absent from the scene. And all that Rahul Gandhi did by way of intervention was to engage in some philosophical hand-wringing over social media. “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time,” he tweeted on Scindia’s desertion. He would perhaps do well to decipher that the patience with the Gandhis’ rather obvious dilettantism is wearing thin. Within days of Scindia’s departure, five Congress MLAs quit in Gujarat, bringing the party’s strength in the State Assembly down to 68 from 73. The BJP can now look to secure three of the four Rajya Sabha seats in the upcoming biennial elections. The BJP is carefully reversing the Congress’s victories in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the 2018 Assembly polls where Rahul Gandhi had undeniably worked hard to tap into the widespread agrarian distress and other local issues. If he no longer has the stomach for a fight, multi-party democracy would be better served by holding organisational elections and let a more willing and deserving candidate to head India’s principal opposition party.