The June 22 get-together of 21 prominent individuals and politicians at the Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar’s house in Delhi provides one a timely opportunity to study the contrast between desertion of their respective parties by regional satraps of Congress and BJP who later floated their own outfits.
While Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Jagan Mohan Reddy succeeded in leading their parties–the NCP, Trinamool Congress and YSR Congress in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh respectively—those state-level leaders who left the BJP failed badly compelling them to make a homecoming after a few years without any condition. Be it Uma Bharati, who after serious differences with the top leadership of her party founded Bharatiya Janshakti Party in Madhya Pradesh, or Kalyan Singh, who formed Rashtriya Kranti Dal in Uttar Pradesh, B S Yediyurappa, who established Karnataka Janata Party, Babulal Marandi, who came up with Jharkhand Vikas Morcha or Madanlal Khurana (of Delhi)—all former chief ministers with their own followings–had to ultimately give in and return to the BJP as much-marginalised figures.
Former Gujarat chief ministers Keshubhai Patel, who formed the Gujarat Parivartan Party and Shankersinh Vaghela, who too resigned from the saffron party and later joined Congress, NCP etc did not return to the BJP.
Yediyurappa was the only one who managed to bounce back and become the chief minister, yet even his stature was not as tall this time as when he first became the CM in 2008. In 2013 Assembly election the Congress won and in 2018 the Congress and JD(S) joined hands to come to power. It was later that the BJP central leadership engineered a split in the ruling combination and after a strange type of horse-trading, Yediyurappa was again installed as the chief minister a year later.
In contrast what is interesting is that Mamata and Pawar had at different points of time joined hands with the same Congress from which they broke away. In the same way, while Pawar could not become the chief minister again—though his party has a powerful presence in Maharashtra—Mamata and Jagan Mohan Reddy are chief ministers of West Bengal and Telangana.
Pawar, Mamata and Jagan Mohan all three prominently used Congress as a part of the names of their respective parties. Even in tiny Puducherry, the All India N R Congress of the present chief minister N Rangaswamy had broken away from the Indian National Congress. It is other thing that last month it won the Assembly election in alliance with the BJP.
Curiously, while Pawar is busy in forming a non-BJP opposition front, what he and other breakaway former Congressmen and women need to realise is that if they return to their old party—Indian National Congress—the Grand Old Party would certainly be a much stronger force in the opposition camp.
While the BJP’s regional satraps, after failing to survive, returned to their old parent party, these former Congress leaders can contribute enough as they are powerful entities in their respective states, if they make a homecoming.
But it is easier said than done as the Congress central leadership has become weak and Pawar, Mamata and Jagan Mohan Reddy are strong in their respective states. Contrary to this in the BJP, all those regional leaders who left grew weak. So they returned to the party fold.
While Kalyan was accommodated as the governor of Rajasthan and Uma Bharati taken in the first Narendra Modi cabinet, Yediyurappa became CM again. Khurana died while Marandi is still to get any place as he took too long a time to return to the BJP.
Anyway, the idea may be fantastic yet Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Jagan Mohan Reddy can still do a rethinking.
Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. Views are personal.