Barely three months ahead of the state assembly elections in Himachal, the Congress seems to be hurtling from one crisis to another. Its bid to unsettle the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been suffering major setbacks.
The latest in the recent reverses for the party is the resignation of senior leader Anand Sharma as Chairman of the Himachal Congress Steering Committee, which was formed on April 26 to steer the party’s campaign for the polls.
Sharma, in a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, cited instances where he was not even informed of key election strategy meetings in Himachal Pradesh and said, “My self-respect is non-negotiable.”
Although he has assured that he would campaign for the party candidates, on ground, the resignation has caused a flutter in the state unit which is already reeling under factionalism.
The party high command had recently handed over the command of the state unit to Pratibha Chauhan, hoping that the legacy of her husband and former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh could glue the state unit together. But that hasn’t translated into a cohesive unit on the ground with internal bickering still galore.
Something even Anand Sharma seems to have pointed out in his letter. The former Union minister in his letter has mentioned multiplicity of committees and overlapping of functions. He said meetings of the core group of Himachal Congress and senior leaders on election strategy and preparations have since been held both in Delhi and Shimla, but he has not been kept in the loop.
Sources in the party said that the multiple committees set up by the high command as a run-up to the polls has compounded the confusion in the party. “Some of these committees are working at cross purposes and in fact against the interest of the local leaders,” complained a leader.
In fact, leaders pointed out that the crossover of two senior MLAs recently from the Congress to BJP was a fallout of this.
Pawan Kajal, MLA from the Kangra seat, and Lakhwinder Rana, MLA from Nalagarh in Solan, upset with the state Congress unit for allegedly creating parallel leaderships in their assembly constituencies to destabilise them, quit recently. “Those from one particular lobby are conniving with senior party leadership to scuttle the chances of local leaders, so that they don’t get tickets. This is happening in several constituencies where a parallel leadership is being created much to the chagrin of local leaders,’’ commented a party leader.
The issue was even flagged at a core group meeting of the Congress in the presence of Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Bhagel and state in-charge Rajeev Shukla recently, but on ground, according to leaders, nothing has changed. State unit president Pratibha Singh had announced at the time of her appointment that she had taken different factions of the party together so that a coordinated strategy was adopted for the polls, but party leaders admit not much seems to have changed.
“There still seems to be confusion and many believe that strong local leaders are being ignored and sidelined. This will dent any chances of the party, upsetting the BJP in the elections which are just a few months away,” commented a leader from Shimla.
The confusion in the party ranks comes at a time when the ruling BJP is going the entire hog to ensure a second term for the Jai Ram Thakur government.