The exit of Jitin Prasada, a prominent leader and a close confidant of Rahul Gandhi, reflects a sense of ennui gripping the Congress that refuses to look beyond the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty for guidance. Like several other seniors who deserted the grand old party in recent times, Prasada, a former Union minister, too chose BJP as his new home, a development that could impact political dynamics in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the Assembly elections. With the leadership issue still in a state of limbo and the internal conflict resolution mechanisms being very weak, the party has been grappling with a deepening crisis which is largely of its own making. The latest desertion highlights the party’s drift and the turmoil, accentuated by its appalling indecision on the leadership issue. The departure of Prasada, who hails from a family of staunch Congress loyalists, can be seen as a direct blow to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who oversees the party affairs in UP, a State crucial for the Congress’ revival. His exit feeds into the perception that Congress leaders no longer see the party as a winning horse now or in future. Significantly, Prasada was among the 23 senior leaders who wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi in October last year seeking organisational overhaul and transparent elections in the party. This is not the first time that a Rahul acolyte has left the party. The exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia and a near successful rebellion by Sachin Pilot point to growing generational friction, with the young brigade, swearing loyalty to Rahul, feeling hemmed in by the old guard and finding no role for themselves in reviving the party.
There has been a long list of high-profile defections to the BJP since 2014. The problem unique to Congress is that several key leaders who are contemporaries of Rahul Gandhi linked their political fortunes to his rise. They now stare at an uncertain future with the scion of the Gandhi family unwilling to change his mind after stepping down from the party president’s post. The larger malaise afflicting Congress is organisational management and leadership. The recent defeats in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala have further demoralised the party cadre. In UP, going to polls next year, there is a growing sense of restlessness among the Congress leaders. Though the Yogi Adityanath government has come in for widespread flak for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the opposition, particularly the Congress, has been unable to capitalise on the situation. At a time when the BJP is defensive about its governance, the entry of leaders like Prasada will help shift the narrative back to its political appeal. Essentially, the saffron party draws its strength from the weakness of the opposition.
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