Fall of Congress foretold

The Puducherry debacle shows the Congress has consistently refused to learn lessons from the past

AuthorPublished: 26th Feb 2021  12:35 am

The collapse of the Congress government in Puducherry followed a tediously familiar pattern that has now come to represent the trademark of the grand old party. First, the infighting breaks out largely fuelled by inflated egos of leaders of rival camps. Then, a spate of representations to the party high command go unacknowledged and unaddressed. Finally, the desertions; first as a trickle and then as a steady flow leading to the fall. The BJP’s machinations, as per its avowed agenda of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, hastens the process. After Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, it was the turn of the Puducherry Congress unit to press this self-destruction button. The baffling silence of the high command had only made matters worse. As a result, three Congress-led governments have collapsed in the past one-and-a-half years. The party narrowly averted a similar disaster last year in Rajasthan, where Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot continue to be at loggerheads even after a compromise was worked out. The upheaval in Puducherry, which comes just a few months before the polls, is attributable to a brazen display of political one-upmanship. The V Narayanasamy-led dispensation was left with no legs to stand on after the resignation of six MLAs in quick succession. The gradual shrinking of the grand old party’s footprint across the country has coincided with the BJP’s growing presence and influence. The saffron party has kept chipping away at vulnerable Congress governments, often with the help of inducements, and managed to wrest the initiative more often than not.

Though the intra-party rivalry in the Congress has been at play for many years in the tiny southern Union Territory, the seeds of the current round of political turmoil were sown back in 2016. In 2015, AV Subramanian was replaced by A Namassivayam, the then MLA from Villianur constituency, as Puducherry Pradesh Congress Committee president. The decision was taken in view of the 2016 Assembly election, in which the party had emerged victorious, largely due to Namassivayam’s hard work. This fuelled the inner-party rivalry between Namassivayam and V Vaithilingam, a senior leader, who had twice served as chief minister of Puducherry. Both were vying for the CM’s post. Meanwhile, Narayanasamy, who was close to senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, jumped into the race and bagged the post. The Puducherry debacle has once again highlighted the fact that the party has consistently refused to learn lessons from the past and keep its house in order. Still awaiting a full-time president since the 2019 poll debacle, it has allowed the drift and indecisiveness to percolate down to the States. Despite the upcoming Assembly elections in key States, the party is in no hurry to elect a new president.

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