Party biggies heap praises on the Modi sarkar... Soniaji and Rahulbaba are both abroad... Renu Mittal reports on upheavals in the Congress. Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Assembly elections in four states -- Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Maharashtra -- will be announced any day now, but some senior Congress leaders have left the party red-faced by batting for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who recently returned from her governor's posting in Kerala, ruffled feathers on September 11 by suggesting that the BJP should form the government in Delhi.
Congress General Secretaries Shakeel Ahmed and Ajay Maken quickly tweeted that these were Dikshit's personal views.
Dikshit is not the only one praising the Modi Sarkar. Digvijaya Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad lauded the Modi government for the rescue and relief work in flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir. "It is good the PM offered help to PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) also where people are suffering from the worst floods in a century," Digvijaya Singh, a Congress general secretary, said.
There is also the raging debate in the party about the retirement age of its leaders.
Commenting on the meeting being convened by young Congress secretaries to which frontal party chiefs have been invited, Digvijaya Singh felt, "The party requires a mix of the young and experienced and over a period of time, the senior leaders should be gradually phased out. It cannot be done at one go."
Senior leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi announced he would not take up active posts within the party after he turns 65 next year, but will hold onto his Rajya Sabha seat till his tenure ends in 2019. Citing the example of former Union home minister Shivraj Patil, who is 78, a Congress general secretary said, "Age is of no relevance as long as the person is physically and mentally alert."
Meanwhile, both the Congress president and vice-president are aboard even as the party readies for the crucial assembly polls.
Rahul Gandhi, the party VP, wants a number of sitting MLAs in Haryana and Maharashtra axed, but the state units want minimal changes since the legislators have worked at the grass-root level. In both Haryana and Maharashtra, there is party infighting and strong lobbies against the chief ministers in addition to anti-incumbency against the state governments.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is struggling to find a seat to contest the assembly polls. Chavan, a member of the state legislative council, is keen to contest from Karad South, but V K Patil, who has been representing the seat for over 20 years, refuses to vacate it.
Most Congress leaders don't want Chavan to contest as he is already an MLC. "It will send the signal that he is once again in the fray for the CM's post," party insiders told Rediff.com
There is also anger against Narayan Rane who heads the Congress election campaign in Maharashtra. "The launch of the poll campaign was disastrous. Rane did not take party leaders into confidence and depended on his son to pull off the event. The turnout was poor," some leaders complained.
Congress leaders feel party President Sonia Gandhi is withdrawing from centre-stage, but without her son filling that void, it could be continued chaos for her party.