Trouble for Congress mounts in Himachal Pradesh as prominent leaders exit

Last month, two Congress MLAs — Pawan Kajal and Lakhwinder Rana — quit the Congress and joined the BJP

September 29, 2022 10:25 pm | Updated 10:25 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Himachal Pradesh Congress leader Harsh Mahajan with Union Minister Piyush Goyal after joining the BJP in New Delhi on September 28, 2022.

Himachal Pradesh Congress leader Harsh Mahajan with Union Minister Piyush Goyal after joining the BJP in New Delhi on September 28, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

CHANDIGARH

Ahead of the 2022 Himachal Pradesh Assembly election, due later this year, the trouble for the Congress party, which aims to wrest power from the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), seem to be mounting with prominent leaders leaving the party, citing factionalism and disarray over party operations in the State

In the latest blow to the party’s electoral prospects, Harsh Mahajan, the party’s working president and a veteran leader, on Wednesday left the party to join the BJP, pointing out that the Congress’s State unit was riddled with infighting and groupism, which had left the party without almost any cadre. The youth was demoralised and disillusioned, with no direction at the State, district or constituency levels, he said.

Mr. Mahajan said that after the demise of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who carried the party single-handedly, the party had been reduced to shambles, with neither leadership nor credibility.

“A super jumbo Congress Committee of over 500 office bearers has been appointed — a sure sign of organisational weakness, with over half of the members being non-entities. The party will not be able to form the government, as it is heading toward further disaster... There is no organisational connection between the State and national levels of the party. A cadre-less party based on the whims and fancies of a few self-acclaimed leaders is untenable,” said Mr. Mahajan, a former State Minister.

The Congress has been battling to put its house in order as several senior leaders have quit the party in recent months.

In April, the Congress replaced then State unit president Kuldeep Singh Rathore under whose leadership the party had registered an emphatic win in the Assembly and Lok Sabha byelections in October 2021. A section of the party feels that this tinkering with the established unit, which had delivered victory in key elections was uncalled for, and its adverse consequences are now out in the open, which could cost the party heavily in the impending poll.

A few days ago, senior leader and a five-time MLA Ram Lal Thakur quit the post of vice-president of Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee, citing “displeasure” over party operations in the State. He also pointed out that after the revamping exercise of the state unit in April this year, a ‘jumbo’ organisation was created, which doesn’t seem to be yielding positive results.

Last month, two Congress MLAs — Pawan Kajal and Lakhwinder Rana — quit the Congress and joined the BJP. Mr. Kajal was one of the working presidents of Congress’s State unit. Both the leaders were reportedly perturbed with the party’s State leadership over efforts being made to weaken them in their Assembly constituencies and promote other leaders against them.

Ashray Sharma, general secretary of the HPCC, had also resigned as a member of the party’s ‘Yuva Rozgar Yatra Committee’, which was set up to mobilise the unemployed youth in the party’s favour. Mr. Sharma, the grandson of former Telecom Minister late Pandit Sukh Ram, quit for being allegedly “sidelined”.

Meanwhile, terming Mr. Mahajan’s allegations as irresponsible and baseless, State Congress president Pratibha Singh said neither the party is going to weaken nor the cadre would be demoralised owing to a few people leaving the party.

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