Suddenly there is a buzz about some influential Congress persons defecting to the BJP. There is no independent confirmation but Delhi political circles are agog with speculation over the identity of these individuals who are said to be close to 10, Janpath.
A number of Congress persons, such as Krishna Tirath, Chaudhry Birender Singh, Satpal Maharaj, Rao Inderjit Singh and some others had switched sides earlier. After May 16, 2014, the Congress has seen a slow but periodic exit by influential leaders, among them Himanta Biswa Sarma, Rita Bahugana Joshi, Yashpal Arya, ND Tiwari, SM Krishna, Arvinder Singh Lovely and others before every State Assembly or local election.
The current Congress leadership seems completely oblivious of what's happening. Sonia Gandhi may have expressed her “desire” to quit politics since the time she turned 70 but the trappings of power are not letting her go. She may not be physically well enough to campaign, but a powerful coterie around her has been successful in convincing her that Congress needs her.
Sonia is being told that she alone can stitch a strong anti-BJP umbrella coalition and position Rahul Gandhi as the undisputed leader of the Congress parivar. At the end of her otherwise impressive political innings, Sonia appears both shaky and edgy. Her famed reliance on her “inner voice” and ability to make dispassionate judgements are nowhere in sight.
In the process, the communication between supreme leader(s) and others has been broken. Senior AICC functionaries who served in Team Sonia are constantly told to meet Rahul who often has neither time nor inclination to grant generous appointments. A section of party leaders whiling away their time at 24, Akbar Road feels disgruntled. Congress leaders themselves circulate 'news' of their likely defection just to grab the party leadership’s attention.
In any case, it is unlikely that Sonia will re-enact the famous scene from 'Man for All Seasons' for any potential defector where Thomas More confronts his betrayer Richard Rich, who was made Attorney General for Wales for falsely testifying against him: "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?"
A closer look at the identity of 'likely' defectors (based purely on gossip and insinuation) tells an interesting story. If the BJP is eyeing the likes of Shashi Tharoor, Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, these Lok Sabha members will have to forgo their parliamentary seats. In Tharoor’s case, getting re-elected from his home State Kerala will amount to mission impossible. His liberal outlook, cloud over Sunanda Pushkar's death, Nehruvian streak and naked ambition to climb the pole are some key factors that may not find approval in Amit Shah’s world view.
Both Nath and Scindia (who have shown no inclination towards the BJP) are towering leaders in their own right. They come from BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh where the House of Scindias is spread over both sides of the political spectrum. Two close relatives of Jyotiraditya (aunt Yashodhara and Maya) are Ministers in Shivraj Singh Chouhan's Cabinet.
Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls are due in November 2018 and as things stand, both Jyotiraditya and Nath are aspirants for the Chief Minister’s post from the Congress side. It is unlikely that Chouhan, Kailash Vijayvargiya, Narendra Singh Tomar, Thavarchand Gehlot and a dozen others (including Yashodhara) would support the idea of either Jyotiraditya or Nath joining in.
Similar is the case of other 'promising' Congress leaders such as Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, RPN Singh, Meenakshi Natarajan and others who are eyeing key posts in a Rahul regime.
This leaves the BJP with the option to poach a vast pool of 'rootless wonders' in the grand old party. There is no dearth of the likes of Rajya Sabha types, the Shuklas and the Dwivedis, who would be game. The only trouble with this lot is that they bring absolutely nothing to the table – rather these sycophants and minions have a chequered history of palace intrigue and petty politics which brought little glory to the institution they were representing. The BJP needs to be careful in this 'left-over' collection.
(Rasheed Kidwai is the Associate Editor with The Telegraph. His Twitter handle is: @rasheedkidwai)
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