Revolt erupted in Congress' backyard in Maharashtra and Assam when two senior ministers today quit the party governments opposing their chief ministers.
Sulking senior Congress minister in Maharashtra Narayan Rane today met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, gave his resignation and later slammed him for his "slackness" in decision-making. He does not want to be a "partner in defeat" in the assembly elections due later this year, he said.
Similarly, another senior Congress minister in the Assam government Himanta Biswas Sarma met the state Governor and submitted his resignation. He claimed he met the Governor along with 38 MLAs and expressed non-confidence in the Chief Minister. Assam goes to polls in less than two years.
Coming two months after Congress debacle in the Lok Sabha elections in both the states have raised questions on the strategy the Congress high command and Rahul Gandhi propose to adopt to stem dissidence. Congress leaders in Delhi, however, ruled out suggestions that it was a revolt by state leaders against the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
Both the ministers had resigned once earlier recently but were persuaded to withdraw it. Sarma said this time he would not withdraw the resignation and made it clear that he would not contest elections under Gogoi's leadership.
Addressing a news conference after submitting his resignation, Rane, a bitter critic of Chavan and an influential leader from Konkan region, mounted a scathing attack on the chief minister, accusing him of slow decision- making and lack of control over administration. "Decisions relating to the people's works are not taken quickly. There is no control over administration. The slow administration affects people's work and dissatisfaction was manifest in Lok Sabha polls," Rane said, adding "I don't want to be a partner in the defeat in the assembly polls and that's why I have quit."
Rane, an aspirant for CM's post for long, also expressed his displeasure with Congress' central leadership. "I was told I will be made CM in six months. But in nine years the promise has not been kept," Rane, who has been publicly claiming he was assured of chief minister's post when he quit Shiv Sena to join Congress in 2005, said. "Not a single associate who came with me to Congress was made legislator," Rane, a former Shiv Sena chief minister, said. He, however, said he would not leave the Congress. "The CM has informed me he will speak to Sonia Gandhi and revert to me. I will announce my next move after that," he said.
In Guwahati, Education Minister Sarma and a group of party MLAs opposed Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's leadership. "I have submitted my resignation as minister to the Governor (J B Patnaik) as I have protested Gogoi's leadership," he told reporters after putting in his papers at the Raj Bhavan.
"About 38 MLAs went with me to the Raj Bhavan but it was my private journey. I have no confidence in Tarun Gogoi's leadership. We are fighting for our party and under Gogoi's leadership Congress will come down to single digit in 2016," he said. "Absolute madness prevails and there is no direction under Gogoi. Continuing under Tarun Gogoi is not feasible politically, mentally and physically. It is not advisable. That is why I decided to resign. I will also send my resignation to the Chief Minister," he added.
To a query, he said, as of now there is no threat to the Gogoi government. "We do not want to topple the government."
Sarma said the governor had been informed that all the 38 MLAs who went with him will play the role of a 'constructive opposition' in the assembly. "We will oppose Gogoi's anti-people policies. But whenever there is a party whip we will abide by it as we do not want to defy party president Sonia Gandhi."
Gogoi rejected Sarma's charges and denied that he had proposed a reshuffle of the cabinet every four months. He expressed surprise over Sarma going to Raj Bhavan to hand over the resignation. Unfazed by the dissidence, Congress today said there was no revolt against Rahul Gandhi. There is only revolt in the media, he added.
"It is not a rebellion against Rahul at all. The Whole issue is some people would not be happy with the Chief Minister. But majority are with the Chief Minister," Congress leader Kamal Nath told reporters outside Parliament House. He said Gogoi enjoyed majority.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi had sent senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge as central observer to Assam last month. Kharge had met all party MLAs as also PCC office bearers and had submitted his report to the party President.
Last week, AICC had ruled out any change in the leadership of the state ahead of the Assembly session there. Gogoi had also said in Guwahati that his government would continue.
Describing reports that Gogoi would be replaced soon as media speculation, AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi had last week remarked: "There is nothing in all this speculation. The high command will take a decision on the matter after studying the reports of the last few months. As of now, everything remains as it is."