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Dec
10

Members-of-CongressThe diminished authority of the Congress leadership in the wake of stunning poll reverses manifested itself on Monday in dramatic fashion with six party MPs submitting notice for a no-trust motion in Lok Sabha in protest over the decision to create Telangana.

The unprecedented move by the ruling party MPs, combined with agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s comment attributing Aam Aadmi Party’s spectacular debut in Delhi to Congress’s”weak leadership” vividly brought out theatmosphere of political uncertainty gnawing at Congress MPs as they came to terms with the magnitude of the debacle as well as to figure out Rahul Gandhi’s response to that. The consolation prize from Mizoram on Monday failed to assuage the worries.

The Seemandhra MPs are unlikely to get the support of 50 MPs on the floor of the House. BJP, which has consistently taken a pro-Telangana position, is unlikely to support the motion. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, whose support becomes crucial because of BJP’s stand, is also learnt to have asked her MPs not to back the move.

However, the spectacle of its own MPs seeking to bring a no-trust motion embarrassed Congress no end, leading the party leadership to hold a meeting late in the evening to devise ways to quell any potential trouble. The discomfiture was more because of the move of TelanganaMPs since it coincided with a jibe from an influential UPA ally, NCP boss Sharad Pawar. The Maratha, who has chaffed at the unilateral ways of Congress, chose his blog to blame the rise of AAP in Delhi on the “weak leadership” of the ruling party.

Though he ran down AAP as a collection of “pseudo-activists” with no connect with ground realities, his scathing assessment of the Congress leadership only served to rub in the humiliation the party was having to endure in the wake of an electoral mauling which has been ascribed by many to BJP, among other things, capitalizing on the “strong leadership” of its PM candidateNarendra Modi.

The palpable unease was aggravated because of the vagueness about who will hold the reins of the party when it has to deal with the challenge of Modi. Leaders like Digvijaya Singh andJyotiraditya Scindia have reacted to the rout by demanding that Rahul be declared the PM candidate. While Rahul seems to be the logical choice, there is no clarity on when the party would formally anoint him as its answer to Modi. Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s statement, in response to a question, on Sunday that the party would take a call on the leadership issue at an “opportune moment” did not lift the veil on whether the announcement would be made before elections.

More important, to many partymen, Rahul’s projection, irrespective of when it is done, could be fraught with the risk of upsetting the organizational applecart close to elections. The Congress vice-president, who has for all practical purposes taken charge of the party, has causedtremendous concern to his colleagues by openly expressing disdain for the way the party has been conducted. His remark on Sunday that he wants to carry on aggressively with his plan to transform the party and would take a few leaves from Arvind Kejriwal’s script towards that end, only increased the concern about what this restructuring might entail.

Party leaders don’t dispute the need for refashioning the party. Their concern is about the timing, with many holding that the fast approaching elections leave too small a window for the ambitious experiment that Rahul seems to fancy. Rahul’s ways — he alternately comes off as aloof and warm to his colleagues — have contributed to the tension which have escalated considerably since the reports of the debacle came in.

Party sources agreed with the assessment that the defeat has reduced the government to a lame duck. There is little likelihood of Parliament functioning meaningfully as Tuesday is expected to witness major disruptions over the Telangana issue with Congress, TDP and YSR Congress planning to blockade proceedings.

A senior minister from an allied party said he did not expect the main opposition BJP to cooperate on any significant piece of legislation. He did not think the saffron outfit would be pleased if the Telangana bill was stalled as BJP has little reason to help Congress gain an upper hand on 17 Lok Sabha seats in the proposed state.

Similarly, the fate of the controversial communal violence bill seems all but sealed as there is no support for it not only from the BJP but most other regional parties like AIADMK, BJD and Trinamool Congress.

Congress MPs who submitted the notice on Telangana include L Rajgopal, V Aruna Kumar, Sai Pratap, Sabbam Hari, Harsha Kumar and R S Rao.

Congress managers did not see the proposed no-trust as a mere gimmick and pointed out that YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy was also planning an adjournment motion on Telangana, to be submitted by a party MP on Tuesday.

“We would like to see how Congress reacts to its own MPs wanting to move a no confidence motion against the party,” Jagan said.

Jagan met leaders of other parties like BJD, Shiv Sena and AIADMK seek support for the adjournment motion. TDP MPs also submitted notice for a no-trust motion.

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