With former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi leaving the Congress after a 30-year stint in it on Monday to form a regional outfit, Chhattisgarh joins a growing number of States from where such departures have taken place, further weakening the Grand Old Party.
In 1998, Mamata Banerjee quit the Congress to form the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal: 16 years later, the Congress’s area of influence remains restricted to three districts in the northern part of the State — Dinajpur, Murshidabad and Malda. In 1999, Sharad Pawar left the Congress to form the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra — from that year till 2014, the Congress remained in power but always with the support of the NCP. That same year, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed quit the Congress to form the People’s Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir, enfeebling the party he left.
If these departures took place in the Congress’s wilderness years, when the BJP-led NDA was ruling the country, in 2011, two years after it won a handsome victory at the Centre, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy left the Congress to form the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh, ahead of the bifurcation of the State. In the 2014 Assembly polls, the Congress won two seats in the Telangana Assembly, and none in the A.P. Assembly. Five years before that, the Congress’s score in the undivided A.P. Assembly was 156, and it was in power for a second term. Earlier this year, Kalikho Pul quit the Congress in Arunachal Pradesh and became Chief Minister with the help of the BJP there.
If in the above mentioned States, Congress stalwarts left to form their own regional parties, in Haryana and Assam, the departures have been to the BJP. In the run-up to the general elections in 2014, Chaudhury Birendra Singh and Rao Inderjeet Singh left the Congress to join the BJP: both are Central Ministers now.
In 2015, ahead of the Assam Assembly elections this year, Himanta Biswa Sharma quit the Congress along with a group of party MLAs to join the BJP. Today, in both Haryana and Assam, there are BJP-led governments.
And recently, Vijay Bahuguna and nine other MLAs left the Congress for the BJP in Uttarakhand: though the Congress won back power after a spell of President’s Rule by winning a court-mandated floor test, all eyes are now on how the party fares in next year’s State elections there.
With Mr. Jogi now forming a new party in Chhattisgarh, the Congress needs to pay attention to strengthening its State leaders and creating a clear line of succession. For, if those who left the Congress for the BJP clearly left for greener pastures, in the other cases, it has largely been a case of thwarted ambitions.