By Anand Singh
New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) Following its dismal performance in the last Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has witnessed a severe crisis as many of the party leaders, including MLAs and MPs, have deserted the party and cost it its government in Karnataka.
The issue of exodus from the party figured at a meeting Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi had with party general secretaries, states’ in-charge, chiefs of state units and CLP leaders on September 12. She described the defectors as “opportunists”.
The worst hit states for the party in terms of defections, besides Karnataka, have been Telangana and Goa. There have been resignations in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh too.
In the last Lok Sabha elections whose results were declared in May, the Congress could manage to win only 52 out of 542 seats, just more than its previous tally of 44.
After the elections, the leadership crisis took a toll on the grand old party, with its chief Rahul Gandhi deciding to step down on May 25, just two days after the poll results were declared.
Amidst leadership vacuum at the top, the Congress was hit by crisis in Telangana on June 6, as 12 out of 18 party MLAs switched over to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).
Indications about such a thing happening were there but the party remained indecisive and was unable to tackle the dissent that had hit the state unit.
After Telangana, the party was hit by dissension in Goa, where the party had won 17 seats in the 2017 Assembly polls. On July 10, 10 out of 15 party MLAs switched over to the ruling BJP.
The Congress MLAs who joined the BJP included Leader of Opposition in Goa Assembly Chandrakant Kavlekar.
A senior party leader had told IANS that a night before the 10 MLAs decided to join the BJP, a senior party functionary had informed K. Raju, Congress General Secretary, but he failed to inform the senior leadership about the move.
Following Telangana and Goa, the Congress was worst hit in Karnataka, where it had a coalition government with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S). At least 13 of its MLAs quit the party, leading to a two-week drama that even reached the Supreme Court, and finally the H D Kumaraswamy government fell on July 23.
Following the resignations by the rebel MLAs, the effective strength of the 225-member Karnataka assembly was reduced to 210, with the half-way mark at 105.
The 2018 Assembly elections had given a split verdict where the BJP with 104 seats was the biggest party, but fell short of majority by nine seats. It was then that the Congress, with 80 seats, and the JD(S), with 37 seats, decided to join hands to keep the BJP at bay.
During Parliament’s Budget Session, which ended on August 7, Congress lost several Rajya Sabha members. First, Sanjay Singh, who hails from the Amethi royal family, quit the Congress party, as well as his membership of the Upper House.
Singh joined the BJP, with which he was associated earlier also and was elected to Lok Sabha on its ticket in 90s.
After Singh, Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, Bhubneswar Kalita, also resigned from the Upper House of the Parliament on August 5, the day on which Union Home Minister Amit Shah brought the resolution to revoke Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir and also introduced bills to bifurcate the state into two union territories.
Kalita unsuccessfully contested the last Lok Sabha polls from Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency. He was also the party’s Chief Whip.
Last week, the Congress suffered a major embarrassment when actor-turned politician Urmila Matondkar resigned from the party, just four months after she joined the party. Matondkar contested the last Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully as Congress candidate from North Mumbai.
Former Minister and senior Congress leader Kripa Shankar Singh also quit the party last week.
Earlier in June, senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who was also the Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly resigned as the MLA.
After him, another Congress MLA and former Minister Abdul Sattar also quit as a legislator.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])