New Delhi, Aug. 31: Jayalalithaa’s outburst against Sonia Gandhi has the blessings of some dissident Congress leaders.
Some senior Congress leaders from the south are said to be in touch with the Tamil Nadu chief minister and former Congress leader Sharad Pawar, who had left the party over the foreign origin issue.
The gameplan is to keep the issue alive, step up disquiet within the Congress and prevent Sonia from emerging as a natural claimant for the top job after the next round of general elections.
Several senior leaders, namely K. Karunakaran, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, A.R. Antulay, Vidya Charan Shukla and Balram Jakhar, are upset with Sonia’s style of functioning.
Many of these leaders are nursing a grudge that the leadership has not given them offices and responsibilities in keeping with their political stature.
In the dissidents’ scheme of things, if the Congress fails to cross the 200-seat mark in the next Lok Sabha polls, there would be a crisis within the party as the current leadership will not be able to stake claim to form the government.
In such a scenario, the Congress would be compelled to seek the support of the third front — parties like Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party, Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and regional outfits like the ADMK.
These parties, in turn, would insist on dropping Sonia for the formation of a “secular government” to prevent the “communal forces” from retaining power.
The third front protagonists are counting on the Telugu Desam Party, the RSP, the Forward Bloc and some other smaller parties to join the “minus Sonia” chorus.
The dissidents are confident that the Congress under Sonia’s leadership will not be able to cross the 200-seat mark in the next general elections. In Uttar Pradesh, the party’s vote bank has shrunk to a single-digit figure. In Bihar, it has merely 21 MLAs.
In Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the party’s organisational set-up is extremely weak. In terms of Lok Sabha seats, these four states send 202 MPs.
In the 13th Lok Sabha, the Congress has 17 MPs from these states. The calculation is that even if the Congress gets half of the 340 seats in the remaining states, it would still not be able to touch the 200 mark, which is still more than 70 less than the majority mark. The Congress hopes to bridge the gap with the help of the Left, the RJD, the IUML and other allies.
Informed sources said the Sonia camp is aware of the dissidents’ plans, but is not in favour of purging and summary expulsions. Sonia is keen to strengthen the party units in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, hoping that good tidings from these four states would make up for the losses in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Sonia believes the Congress has the potential of improving its tally in Maharashtra, Andhra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat from the current strength of 30 to around 80 to 90 seats out of the 144 Lok Sabha seats in these states.
The Congress president’s confidence is based on the premise that unlike in the other four states, the party organisational set-up is extremely active in the states she is focussing on.