Cong problems begin and end at the top

A few people will believe that the former External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s exit from the Congress and entrance to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be a great loss for the former and a considerable gain for the latter

Like the similar floor-crossing of Rita Bahuguna-Joshi in Uttar Pradesh, who has now become a minister in Yogi Adityanath’s government, Krishna’s perambulations in Karnataka will be no more than a footnote in recent political history.

The only recent transition from the Congress to the BJP which has been of some importance is that of Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam — if only because the 48-year-old MLA is seen as an influential political figure in the state unlike the two others, who are no longer at the peak of their careers.

But what these exploratory treks from the formerly Grand Old Party, which is surrendering its earlier prominent position to the BJP, show is that the Congress’ members at various levels no longer deem it worthwhile to remain loyal to it because they see the party to be on a downhill slide.

It may be unfair to compare these deserters as the denizens of a sinking ship because politics, after all, is not a charitable business and those involved in the profession of “serving the people” are justified in seeing it as a means of advancing their own prospects even as an octogenarian like Krishna.

But the Congress has reasons to be concerned that it is no longer recognised as an attractive home or destination. In recent weeks, only Navjot Singh Sidhu has joined it, but not before he first tried his luck with the Aam Admi Party after quitting the BJP.

A Congress spokesman, Rajeev Gowda, has said that Krishna could have waited for the Karnataka assembly election results next year before leaving because, according to Gowda, the party may fare as well in Karnataka as it has done in Punjab. He has also said that a process of restructuring and strengthening is on in the Congress.

If so, Krishna, a former Chief Minister, who is an insider, did not see it. Instead, what he saw was that the party was being led by a part-timer, as he said. It is criticism of Rahul Gandhi, which has been made by Rita Bahuguna-Joshi as well, who said that the crown prince is “unwilling to listen to people in the party”.

Sarma, too, famously said that Rahul Gandhi was playing with his dog when he took his complaints about the condition of the Congress in Assam to him.

Although it is now widely believed, at least outside the party, that the Congress’ problems lie at the top, and the BJP openly says that Rahul is its best “asset”, the Congress is unwilling to concede the point.

What is more, as a recent article by former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid argued, the Congress’ successes in Punjab, Goa and Manipur — it became the first party in the last two states — show that there is nothing basically wrong with the party; its reverses are due to the BJP’s superior electoral strategy.

The former minister is also unwilling to accept that India is changing in the sense that a more aspirational generation is demanding faster economic growth. According to him, the so-called attitudinal change is not reflected in Punjab, Goa and Manipur.

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