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Is Khadi going Saffron the major concern for the Indian National Congress in the upcoming elections?

More than 80 Congress MLAs from 10 states have joined BJP in the past five years

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The once ‘all powerful’ Congress is at a slippery slope as far as the future of Indian politics is concerned. The party which dominated the political narrative in the India of the past is now at defense and are taking desperate measures to reserve a spot in India’s political future. This includes going out of their way to embrace the majoritarian narrative and shifting spectrum from center-left to soft Hindutva, even embracing the alternate right at times. While the issues inside the party ranged from taking things for granted to widespread corruption in the past, members losing trust in the party and its leadership, and economic sustainability as the elections are approaching are the major concerns of the Indian National Congress today.

More than 80 Congress MLAs from 10 states have joined BJP in the past five years. In fact, the newly acquired strength from the ex-congressmen guaranteed BJP’s success in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, and Goa. To examine this narrative, let us look at some solid examples that favored BJPs political ambitions in the recent past.

The fall of Congress in Tripura

To defeat the dominant left in Tripura, BJP needed the help of the major opposition. While a coalition in the elections was expected, the Congress party merging into the BJP was a surprise. Most of the Congress MLAs and even the state and Zilla level leaders shited alliance to the BJP. This obviously resulted in the Congress party losing its foot in Tripura and forfeiting their vote share. The Congress which had a vote share of around 40% in 2013 failed miserably and managed to get only 2% votes in the last election.

Out of the 9 MLAs the Congress had in the 60 member assembly, 7 of them first shifted to Trinamool Congress and later, to the BJP. BJP did not have a single elected MLA at the time. This was the crucial factor that guaranteed BJPs victory in the elections. Ex-Congress MLA Sudeep Roy, who is the son of ex-chief minister and Congress leader Sameer Ranjan, lead the Ghadi-Saffron conversion process. Ex-Congress MLA Ratan Lal Nath is the current education minister under the BJP government.

The Congressman who strengthened Saffron politics in the North-East

The main person behind the rise of Saffron politics in the North-easter states of India is ironically an ex-Congressman. Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was a Congress leader from Assam, shifted to the BJP and played a crucial role for them. Himanta was the finance minister in the senior Congress leader Tarun Gogoi led assembly and he shifted to BJP in 2016. This trend can be seen again as we move forward. In most of the places, the BJP has won in the previous election, the inflow of Congressmen is an everpresent event. This ‘flow’ has increased even more as the BJP came into power.  

Goa: the biggest party is the Congress, the ruling party is the BJP

In the previous election, the biggest party with the majority vote share in Goa was the Indian National Congress. Out of the 40-member assembly, the Congress won 17 seats. Still, the BJP managed to rule in Goa. The crucial factor that favored the BJP was, again, the shifting Congress MLAs. Three Congress MLAs shifted to BJP and this shifted the political landscape in favor of the BJP. The MLAs who shifted included famous Congress leaders, like the son of the ex-chief minister( Prathap Singh Rana) of Goa, Vishwajith Rana; Subash Shirodkar, a senior Congress leader who had been an MLA 6 times before.

The Congress in Gujarat

The flow of Congressmen to the BJP is a harsh reality in Gujarat as well. Most recently, Dr. Asha Patel left the Ghadi and joined the Saffron. She was a very strong Congress leader representing them in Northern Gujarat. Kunwarji Bawalia, another prominent Congress figure, who shifted to BJP in the past is now a minister. When AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel contested in the Rajya Sabha elections, 7 Congress MLAs shifted to the BJP. All 7 of them got a chance to contest in the election representing the BJP and 2 of them won.

Even in Chattisgargh, the Congress working president and a strong Adivasi leader, Ram Dayal Uike, shifted alliance to BJP at the time of elections. And in Madhya Pradesh, including Shekhar Chaudary and Sunil Mishra, 6 MLAs chose Saffron.

AP: The ex-Congress chief minister is still a chief minister, but with the BJP

Out of the 60 member assembly in Arunachal Pradesh, Congress dominated with 45 seats in the past. Initially, every Congress MLA except the ex-chief minister Nabam Tuki, followed the direction of the chief minister and Congressman Pema Khandu, and shifted to Peoples party of Arunachal. The PPA was one among the few parties who had an alliance with the BJP. Eventually, under the leadership of Pema Khandu himself, the 34 MLAs who shifted alliance initially, joined the BJP. And thus, the Congress chief minister became the BJP chief minister in AP.

In Uttarakhand, 9 Congress MLAs including the ex-chief minister and senior Congress leader Vijay Bahuguna shifted alliance to the BJP and this resulted in the failure of the Congress in Uttarakhand. In Manipur, which has a 60 member assembly, the Congress had 28 seats and the BJP had 21. 9 MLAs out of the 28 shifted to BJP and Congress lost power. There are also examples of Himachal Pradesh(2 MLAs shifted to BJP) and Karnataka(4 Congress MLAs openly supported the BJP) where this scenario repeated.

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