New Delhi: Digvijaya Singh has never shied away from a controversy. He once told a journalist that it is important for a politician to remain in news. Once again, he is in news, but for a reason even he wouldnât like to face.
Congress has taken away the charge of Karnataka and Goa states from him. While Karnataka, the last big state with Congress government, goes to Assembly polls in less than a year; in Goa, BJP managed to form government through quick manoeuvring after the recent polls even as Congress, despite emerging the single-largest party, came across as a lame duck.
[blurb]There couldnât have been bigger snub for a leader of Digvijaya Singhâs stature from the Gandhi family. [/blurb]
After losing an almost-won battle in Goa, Congress drew criticism from across the political spectrum. In a rare sight, some Congress workers blamed Rahul Gandhi for failing to form government in the state despite a mandate from people.
Some Congress leaders from Goa complained to the party high command that Digvijaya Singh was inaccessible after the election results, while BJP rushed in its national leaders to negotiate with the smaller parties and the Independents to form the government.
According to sources, Digvijaya Singhâs failure in Goa is not the only reason why the party has decided to sideline him.
Ahead of the crucial polls in Karnataka and BJP's aggrieve planning for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party is reworking its strategy.
After the Uttar Pradesh results, the party conducted an internal survey which blamed its image of 'minority appeasement' for the loss. The Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance was seen as pro-Muslim by many.
[quote]Digvijaya pushed the envelope too far. The party should have stepped in and expressed disagreement with his views on some issues. Muslims didn't trust the Congress, nor did the Hindus care for us. Na maya mili na ram," a senior Congress general secretary told News18.[/quote]
According to Congress sources, the party had lost 2014 Lok Sabha polls as Muslims had abandoned it.
In 2013, when Digvijaya Singh had said that Batla House encounter was a fake one, the then prime minister Manmohan Singh had met him and suggested that a commission of inquiry could be set up. Digvijaya Singh's reference to Osama Bin Laden as
'Osamaji' had led to a huge controversy. This had given Modi an opportunity to accuse the Congress of being soft on terrorism. But the Congress didn't pull up Digvijaya Singh for his remarks.
In fact, he drew clout from the perception that he was close to Rahul Gandhi. Digvijaya Singh was one of the most powerful general secretaries in Congress and his room was always packed with visitors. Even his critics used to say that if someone had asked Digvijaya Singh for a favour, he would get the things done.
But times have changed. After the Goa episode, when Digvijaya Singh attacked the BJP for not letting the Congress form the government, his own party didn't support him.
Despite Digvijaya Singh calling himself a devout Hindu, his pro-Muslim image became a burden for the Congress.
[quote]I am loyal to the party and Nehru Gandhi Family, and owe my position to the party and to them," Digvijaya Singh said after being sacked.[/quote]
Congress is facing anti-incumbency and an aggressive BJP in Karnataka. The party has made KC Venugopal, a Rahul Gandhi loyalist, the state in-charge. Venugopal is less controversial and his experience of floor management in Parliament may help the party negotiate with all factions.
Also, with Gujarat and Rajasthan polls next in line, the Congress wants to appear as an inclusive party. Digvijaya Singh may find it difficult to make a comeback anytime soon.