NEW DELHI: The departure of Jitin Prasada, a Congress dynast close to Rahul Gandhi, to rival BJP, is reflective of the party’s continuing battle with the perception of being in steep decline, hurt by leadership drift and unable to sort out organisational management issues post-2014.
Prasada is not the first of Rahul acolytes to revolt, coming as it does after the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia and a near successful rebellion by Sachin Pilot. Both leaders felt hemmed in by older leaders in their states. Prasada, along with some others, represents a unique group in whom Congress invested heavily when in office but finds no role for in its desperate revival projects.
On the other hand, there is resentment over leaders who seem to have the leadership’s ear and are seen as impositions. Prasada was out of the Priyanka Gandhi Vadra-led experiment in UP and his “promotion” as the AICC incharge of West Bengal after he joined the dissident G- 23 group was more a signal of exile from his state, even as he styled himself as a Brahmin face to retain relevance after poll humiliations.
His exit feeds into the perception that Congress leaders no longer see the party as a winning ticket now or in future. The apparent aggression shown by the leadership, with Rahul continuing his attacks on PM Narendra Modi on issues like vaccines — given a fillip by the second wave — does not seem to have impressed all in the party.
The larger malaise afflicting Congress is organisational management and leadership. The recent defeats in Kerala, Assam and Bengal resulted in the urgency of an AICC probe by Ashok Chavan committee while dissidence in Punjab unit forced the formation of an AICC committee.
A panel formed earlier to settle the crisis in Rajasthan unit is still to put the issue to bed. The preponderance of panels gives the impression of a party struggling with internal chaos amid a weakened leadership, not a happy sign for the already demoralised workers and functionaries.
Insiders say the party is unable to step off the beaten track to reinvent itself. For instance, while it swiftly announced new state leadership after Kerala defeat, a state chief and three working presidents, an office bearer argued that the model of “diffused leadership”, a Congress fad, is a failed experiment which has been red flagged within.
Besides, the continuing leadership vacuum is only adding to the uncertainty within, with many often wondering if it is already too late to right the ship. Congressmen point to the pattern that young leaders with a direct line to the Gandhis are the first to rebel when the party is down. As Congress lurches from crisis to crisis and defeat to defeat in what appears an unending churn post-2014, much of its future would depend on the coming polls in UP, Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab