Rahul Gandhi’s failures
Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s exit shows leadership rot
In pure electoral terms, Rita Bahuguna Joshi's departure from the Congress may not significantly impact the party's prospects in the 2017 Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress's position is so bleak that the loss (or even gain) of a handful of seats due to Joshi's decision will make no difference to the imminent defeat staring the party in the face. But it is certainly a boost to the Bharatiya Janata Party which is seeking to regain power in the State after a gap of nearly 20 years. Rita Bahuguna Joshi has been a prominent figure in Uttar Pradesh's politics for over 25 years and commands a following both on account of her caste and the work she has done at the grassroots level. But again, it remains to be seen as to what seat advantage she brings to the table for the BJP. The benefit to the party is at a different level. Joshi is not just another leader in the State to switch over. She had been with the Congress for as long as over two decades, was close to the party high command, and had been a firm critic of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress has slammed her decision and dragged in her family in the narrative, saying it has a history of political betrayals. Of course, the Congress conveniently forgets that she herself served the party for two full decades and more. The Congress has also accused her of “opportunism”. But Congress leaders never apply the term to those who quit other parties and join the Congress. However, the real issue is not Joshi's supposed opportunism or her political U-turn or her family's track record. It's what the Congress refuses to address with honesty: The failure of party vice president (and sooner than later, to be president) Rahul Gandhi to connect with influential local leaders and keep them on his side. Soon after coming into the BJP's fold, Joshi held Rahul Gandhi responsible for the Congress's sliding fortunes; said he was unacceptable to the people; and alleged that he paid little attention to party functionaries.
The tirade sounds familiar. Nearly the same sentiment had been voiced by Vijay Bahuguna who quit the Congress months ago and joined the BJP. Himanta Biswa Sarma, the powerful leader from Assam, too had left the Congress in disgust over Rahul Gandhi's handling of party affairs. The crises in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where senior Congress leaders dumped the party to join hands with the BJP, too were a result of the Congress vice president’s failure to address the grievances of local leaderships. Some Congress State units are waiting to implode because they have been mishandled by people who have the eyes and ears of Rahul Gandhi. Not long ago, another Congress leader and former Union Minister Jayanthi Natarajan left the party, accusing Rahul Gandhi of having tried to meddle in the functioning of the Environment Ministry which she headed. These are just a few names who decided enough was enough. There are those still in the party squirming in their seats, either not having the courage to speak up or waiting for an opportune moment to strike. All in all, it’s not a happy situation for a leader who is said to command undisputed loyalty in the Congress and is poised to lead the party in arguably the politically most important Assembly election in the country since the Modi Government assumed power.
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