There is no easy day at office for the top leaders of the Congress. Barely has the storm settled down in Maharashtra, with the party losing power as part of the MVA coalition, and its partner Uddhav Thackeray losing not just his seat of power as Chief Minister but now cornered to fight for control over the Shiv Sena, the party his father founded, that early troubling signs are emerging from Jharkhand.
For starters, the arrest of three Congress MLAs belonging to Jharkhand in West Bengal is all wrong but not for moral reasons. The cordon, search and arrest was not conducted by some central agency but the West Bengal state police.
The Trinamul Congress (TMC) government, still reeling under the arrest of its minister Partha Chatterjee by the Enforcement Directorate with a cash seizure of `50 crore, would in normal circumstances not have acted with such rigour to arrest three Congress MLAs from a neighbouring state, with a cash in the car boot of less than `50 lakh. For one, the TMC, notwithstanding the angry response over the Vice-President’s election, would not have gone so out of the way to conduct this matter in such a manner over a friendly party, especially if they belong to another state.
Secondly, these Congress MLAs, Irfan Ansari, Rajesh Kachhap and Naman Bixal, had just returned from Assam, and could barely justify the cash, saying they were out to buy saris for a tribal festival in Kolkata.
The Congress, forced to not be on the wrong side of the issue of corruption, dismissed the three leaders but accused them of having become part of a conspiracy to topple the coalition government led by Hemant Soren.
The suggestion that this was meant to topple a state government is ludicrous. It is hard to get a shift of loyalty of a single MLA, or even a municipal corporator, with that kind of cash in India today. But it is not hard to see value in the larger panic — if the BJP can get power shifted in Ranchi, it would unlikely miss an opportunity.
Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka were two states in which the BJP installed its own Chief Minister after the Congress had a government there within the same term, and barely missed doing the same in Rajasthan. It pulled the ground beneath the feet of Mr Thackeray and his son Aditya Thackeray in Mumbai.
Though Mr Soren broke ranks with this ally, the Congress, to support the NDA candidate in the Presidential elections, the ED raids and investigations against his adviser in the mining case are continuing. Earlier, the CM’s constituency representative was also arrested in the ongoing probe.
The most interesting thing is the matter, of course, is the alacrity of response of the Congress. In most states, the Congress has largely remained clueless, while the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, which has truly established politics as an unending game, a 24-by-7 war, has pulled off legislative coups.
Will Jharkhand be the next? It will be no surprise if it will be, but for a welcome change, the Congress is watching with some alertness too....