Exodus of ‘frustrated’ leaders: Why Rahul Gandhi’s former aides are leaving Congress

NEW DELHI: Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Hardik Patel, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Sunil Jhakar, Jitin Prasada, RPN Singh and now Milind Deora. The list of leaders who have left Congress and joined rival political parties in recent years is getting longer by the day, signaling a continuing saga of dissatisfaction and unaddressed concerns.
Notably, most of these leaders were once considered close to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and have publicly expressed their frustration with the Wayanad MP for not addressing their concerns.
On Sunday, a familiar script played out when former South Mumbai MP Milind Deora ended his family’s 55-year long association with Congress and joined the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.
The young leader, who was once a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, was apparently seeking assurance about his political future ever since the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena — or Shiv Sena (UBT) — laid claim to his stronghold of Mumbai South.
Sources close to Deora told PTI that he left Congress after “a very long and futile wait” since the party failed to address his concerns.
Justifying Deora’s decision, a close aide said that it is “impossible” to get an audience with Rahul Gandhi, adding that one feels “suffocated” within the party due to the clear disconnect.
Laundry list of unhappy leaders
Deora now joins a growing list of well-known former leaders who decided to exit the party for similar reasons.
Most of these leaders have joined BJP, while some have flocked over to other parties or have formed their own outfits.
The first and the most notable among them is Himanta Biswa Sarma, who became the chief minister of Assam under BJP.
Once he left Congress, Sarma turned into an outspoken critic of Rahul Gandhi and doesn’t let any opportunity pass to target the Wayanad MP.
In his long resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, Sarma had called Rahul “arrogant” and accused the Congress leader of not listening to his concerns.
Former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had voiced similar concerns, saying that Rahul Gandhi “had demolished the entire consultative mechanism of the Congress”. He also called Gandhi “immature”.
Other ex-Congress leaders did not attack Rahul Gandhi directly but expressed their frustation over other issues such as lack of internal democracy and a disconnect with the leadership.
For instance, Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was angry with the factionalism in the party’s Madhya Pradesh unit when he resigned from Congress to join the BJP in March 2020.
Scindia said he could no longer take the disrespect coming from veteran Kamal Nath.
His resignation came as a huge setback for the grand old party as it led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government in MP and paved the way for BJP’s return in the state under Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Sachin Pilot, who was himself on the precipice of leaving Congress due to similar concerns in Rajasthan, decided to stay back in the grand old party despite his concerns going unaddressed.
But other leaders didn’t show such patience.
In June 2021, former Union minister Jitin Prasada quit the Congress citing the party’s growing disconnect with the people. While joining BJP, Prasada asserted that the saffron party is the only real political party in India.
Following this, several other high-profile leaders such as Priyanka Chaturvedi, former Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev and former Union minister RPN Singh also quit the party.
Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh floated his own outfit and joined hands with BJP after leaving Congress. Others like former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and party spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill joined BJP.
Rahul Gandhi has maintained that individuals desiring to leave Congress are at liberty to do so.
Meanwhile, the Congress leadership has so far chosen to explain the exits as resignations of leaders who don’t have the capacity to take on the BJP in an ideological fight.
After Deora’s exit, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that the development will not have any impact on the party.
“One Milind Deora goes away, lakhs of Milinds who believe in our organisation, ideology stay,” Ramesh said.
But the exodus of so many high-profile leaders does point to a deeper problem, especially when the party is struggling to maintain its relevance.
(With inputs from agencies)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *