Prodigal sons and pitfalls of homecomings



															Tariq Anwar, founder-member of NCP,  indirectly declared he could not deal with any party that supported Narendra Modi and the BJP, after NCP chief Sharad Pawar gave Modi a ‘clean chit’ on the Rafale deal. (PTI)

It is always difficult choosing prodigal sons over those who stood by you during bad times

The BJP has mastered the game of luring potential winners from other parties and giving them tickets to swell its numbers in various legislative bodies. Every party has suffered at BJP’s hands since 2014, but the Congress more so than most.

Even now, the BJP is wooing two Congress legislators from Goa to stabilise its shaky government in the neighbouring state. While these non-BJP legislators might be tempted to walk over to the winning side, two dangers are inherent in the exercise — they will be among the first to desert the party ranks if they see it in trouble, but more importantly, these turncoats, despite material gains, are almost never able to change their ethos and thus bring their new parties a lot of grief.

The Congress paid a heavy price for this after indiscriminately admitting all sorts of people, including criminals, during its regime. It led to dilution of its ideology and also pluralism, as many RSS ideologues allegedly infiltrated Congress ranks — some at the top level — and pushed the party towards destruction.

Although the BJP top brass is running a tighter ship than the Congress, they too have started facing this problem. The signs were visible in 2015-16, when several party MLAs, who had crossed over from the Congress, began to grumble about the BJP’s anti-rural proclivities, including issues such as minimum support price (MSP) and cow slaughter ban, both of which have wrecked the agrarian economy.

The first to take decisive action was Nana Patole, BJP MP from Gondia, who quit the Congress after learning about its compulsions in accommodating its ally, the NCP, which was blocking his future prospects in his home constituency. However, he returned to the Congress fold and heads the farmers’ wing.

Patole has been crucial to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s plans to break other Congressmen away from the BJP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. According to sources, at least 70 of the BJP’s current MPs in the Lok Sabha are Congressmen and he is confident of securing homecoming of at least 40 before the polls.

The seriousness with which the Congress is working towards reclaiming lost men is bearing fruit. The latest return in Maharashtra is of Ashish Deshmukh. He is the son of former state Congress president Ranjit Deshmukh, who always described himself as “1978 loyalist”. However, Deshmukh senior was angry with the Congress for not giving him his due in later years and propelled his son towards the BJP.

But Deshmukh junior has resigned from the BJP, as well as his assembly seat, much like NCP founder-member Tariq Anwar gave up his Lok Sabha seat from Bihar a couple of weeks ago. Both are almost certain to join the Congress and contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls from their respective states. Anwar indirectly declared he could not deal with any party that supported Narendra Modi and the BJP, after NCP chief Sharad Pawar gave Modi a ‘clean chit’ on the Rafale deal.

Deshmukh, who said his resignation from the BJP was a clear indicator of his homecoming, has been ruthless in listing the failures of the BJP government — both in the state and the Centre. Starting with the Rafale deal, he minced no words in calling it corrupt one, Deshmukh expressed his growing apprehension at the complete failure of the BJP government on all fronts.

“Not just the farmers, even their core base of traders feel alienated because of demonetisation and GST. And whatever they may claim, there are no jobs anywhere,” Deshmukh said after quitting the BJP on Gandhi Jayanti. That very day, he met Rahul Gandhi in Wardha.

It is no surprise that an exodus is beginning, in dribbles for now, but the homecoming could soon become a gathering storm for both the parties. Much as the losing party could suffer ignominy with the exits, it is never easy for any party to deal adequately with the home-comers. It is always difficult choosing prodigal sons over those who stood by you during bad times. It’s a tightrope walk that could lead to a disastrous fall. Is Rahul Gandhi up for it?

First Published: Oct 16, 2018 23:07 IST

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