Cong mired in two fronts — One within, other to remain Oppn’s centre of gravity

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The Congress has to fight on two fronts in the coming days as it has to contain the internal rift within the party and also keep itself relevant in the opposition camp after the rise of the AAP, particularly in Punjab. The latter after its victory in Punjab has made it clear that it has national ambitions after winning two states.

The internal rift within the party is now spreading after the Congress’ ‘G-23’ leaders, held a meeting on Friday to discuss the poll debacle and are planning to organize a bigger meet in the coming days to push for a change in the leadership. The dissenters are understood to have sought that there should be no more delay in electing a new party President while an AICC session should be called to discuss the poll results. Sources said the matter is likely to be raised in the Congress Working Committee meeting to be held shortly.

The G-23 meeting was held at senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s residence here, and was attended by Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma and Akhilesh Prasad Singh while some other leaders joined virtually.

As per sources, the leaders wanted that accountability be fixed for the poll debacle and changes be made in the composition of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body. The issue of organisational polls was also discussed.

The meeting was held a day after the results of the Assembly elections held in five states came out, with the party losing its stronghold Punjab, failing to mount a serious challenge in Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, besides getting virtually decimated in Uttar Pradesh. After the poll debacle, the G-23 leaders are reportedly miffed with the style of functioning of the party leadership.

One prominent leader said that “it is time that the first family of the Congress steps aside and paves the way for a new leadership or acts in tandem with the party leaders and be available 24×7 for party work, or else there won’t be a revival of the Congress in the country.”

The leaders pointed out that the present set-up is non-performing and it has to be changed as the party is not “someone’s fiefdom” and everyone has a stake in it.

The second challenge is to maintain relevancy in the opposition camp with the party being reduced to governing just two states and being the junior partner in three states. If the party fails to win Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in the next polls there will be problems in the 2024 general elections as AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal could give a tough fight to the party.

The first regional party that has won outside its state of origin, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP is set to foray into national politics. The landslide win in Punjab has positioned the AAP in direct competition with the grand old party, the Congress.

In the five-state Assembly polls, which were regarded as a kind of semi-final, the Congress has been demolished. Arvind Kejriwal, while addressing the party workers at the party office in Delhi on Thursday after the results, said that this was a stamp on honest politics. “Bhagat Singh said that the system has to be changed and the people of Punjab have changed the system.”

The party has often made a mention of its national ambitions, and has fielded candidates in several states. With the Punjab win, the ambition finally seems to be taking shape.

The elated party workers say that Kejriwal will be the Prime Ministerial candidate in the future as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Kejriwal shares a good rapport with non-BJP leaders, including Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and Akhilesh Yadav. He may become a joint opposition candidate at the cost of the Congress in view of the latter’s continued downslide since 2014.

The AAP’s Punjab in-charge Raghav Chaddha said that the BJP took 10 years to form its government in a state, but the AAP has expanded its base to a second state in Punjab and in both the states the AAP has got landslide victories.

Apart from Punjab, the AAP has performed well in Goa where it secured around 4 per cent of the votes. In Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the party has contested and though it has not won, but it has tried to make the organisation active in each district of the state.

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