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Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Jagan and Himanta Biswa: How Congress ignored key regional leaders and eventually lost those states

Losing key regional leaders, like Mamata Banerjee, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Sharad Pawar and Jagan Mohan Reddy has been catastrophic for Congress. While Scindia's exit brought the Kamal Nath government down, speculations of Sachi Pilot's exit are already triggering doubts over the party's future in Rajasthan.

Speculations are rife that the Rajasthan’s Congress government may also be going the Madhya Pradesh way after the infighting within the party came out in the open. Amid the ongoing political turmoil in the state of Rajasthan, deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot has made it clear that he will not attend the Rajasthan Legislature Party meeting scheduled for Monday morning.

Besides, the current Deputy CM of Rajasthan had also met Jyotiraditya Scindia on Sunday in Delhi. Scindia had recently left the post of general secretary, Congress, and joined BJP, bringing down the Kamal Nath government in the state. Pilot, on Saturday, openly rebelled, claiming that he had the support of 20-25 Congress MLAs and some independents in the state assembly. He has also stated that the Gehlot government is no longer holding a majority in Rajasthan.

Like the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the grand old party forced the Congress party’s bigwig, Kamal Nath to give away his chief minister’s seat to BJP’ Shivraj Chouhan, Sachin Pilot’s departure from the party might make it difficult for Gehlot to hold on to the reins of Rajasthan.

Well, though changing political party affiliations are quite common in India, it has cost the Congress party dearly in the past. There have been many instances in the past where Congress has been left completely disintegrated in the state where its prominent members have quit to either merge into others or to form their own party.

Mamata Banerjee left Congress to form TMC

TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s story by far remains the biggest success story of any erstwhile Congress leader forming their own political party. After being a member of the Indian National Congress for over 26 years, Mamata Banerjee formed her own party of Bengal, the Trinamool Congress, which was registered with the Election Commission of India during mid-December 1999.

Mamata, who was once sidelined by the Congress taking away her chance to be state president, had, after 13 years of separating from the grand old party, routed the formidable Left in West Bengal to come to power. Eventually, in 2016, she crushed the Left as well as the Congress and won a second term. Mamata Banerjee had by now reduced the Congress to a poor second in Bengal politics. As years passed and BJP gained significance in the state of Bengal, Congress, with which Mamata had once allied at the centre, was pushed to a zero in the state.

Sharad Pawar left Congress to form NCP

Sharad Pawar, the veteran politician considered to be the stabilising force in the Shiv Sena-INC-NCP coalition in Maharashtra, was once a member of the grand old party. In 1999, Pawar rebelled when Sonia Gandhi took over as party President. Protesting her foreign origin, Pawar had broken his ties with the Congress and floated his own party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The party, however, remained a crucial ally of INC in Maharashtra and the UPA government at the Centre for almost 15 years, until it was defeated by the BJP in 2014.

After its complete decimation in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Maharashtra assembly polls and again in the 2019 general elections, Congress in its desperation to regain its foothold in Maharashtra, allied with NCP and Shiv Sena to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi, a political coalition formed after the 2019 Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election under the leadership of Sharad Pawar of the NCP, Uddhav Thackeray of Shiv Sena and Sonia Gandhi of the Congress Party.

When Pawar went away from Congress, with him went a significant chunk from Congress’ vote share in the state.

After the partnership, Congress has many a time stated in the public that its views were not being taken into account while making decisions. With the key decisions now being taken by the Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray in consultation with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Congress leaders in Maharashtra feel that their party is being sidelined by the Shiv Sena and NCP in the government.

YSR Jagan Mohan Reddy

Jagan Mohan Reddy broke his ties with INC to form his own party, the YSR Congress in 2011 after he felt the Congress was attempting to create division in the family. Jagan’s father, YS Rajasekhara Reddy was one of the favourite chief ministers of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. After his sudden death in a helicopter crash, the relations between the Congress party’s supremos and the Reddy family turned bitter. Reddy’s son Jagan Mohan felt that the Congress was trying to scuttle his political ambition and he left the party in 2011 to lead the YSR Congress, named after his father.

The grand old party had won all the state elections from the emergence of Andhra Pradesh on 1 October 1953 till 1983. It again re-emerged in 1989 and lasted in power until the elections of 1994. Again, under YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR), the Indian National Congress party won the 2004 elections as part of a coalition with TRS. In the 2009 Andhra Pradesh assembly elections the Indian National Congress under the leadership of YSR again won a simple majority by winning 156 of 294 assembly seats.

However, in 2014 Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh. The Telangana movement which was spearheaded by KCR gave him immense popularity and he went on to win the 2014 elections with a thumping majority.

The year, 2019, however, saw the emergence of YSR Congress under the leadership of Jagan Mohan Reddy. He alone swept the elections with a majority and 151 seats and went on to become the CM of Andhra Pradesh on 30 May 2019. His spilt with the Congress party left the later completely decimated in the state.

After YSR’s death, Jagan had hoped to be the next CM. The party leaders, the cabinet and MLAs were almost all in Jagan’s favour. But Sonia had appointed a Gandhi family loyalist K Rosaiah as the CM.

Jagan had quit Congress after an incident where his widowed mother Vijayalakshmi and sister Sharmila were ‘insulted’ and mistreated by Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi, reports say. In 2010, Vijayamma and Sharmila Reddy had visited 10 Janpath to meet Sonia Gandhi. Instead of a warm welcome, as the late YSR Reddy shared a good rapport with Sonia, they were reportedly treated badly and Sonia asked Vijayamma to tell her son, Jagan, to immediately stop his outreach campaign in villages, says a report in News 18.

Outraged over the misbehaviour, Jagan Reddy had reportedly swore vengeance against the Congress. He was later jailed in a disproportionate assets case and spent over 18 months in prison. He eventually built up his party’s strength brick by brick, and in the 2019 assembly elections, decimated the TDP to form government in Andhra Pradesh with an overwhelming majority. The Congress now lies in ruins in Andhra Pradesh. Congress, who had once ruled over the undivided Andhra for decades, failed to win even a single seat and got just 1.17% votes.

Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who emerged as a game-changer for the BJP in the state in the 2016 elections, had left INC to join BJP in 2015 over ideological differences. Sarma, widely seen as the man who was responsible for BJP’s victory in Assam, had once called Rahul Gandhi an “arrogant” man and said that whenever anyone goes to see him, the meeting is like a “servant-master relationship which is disgusting.”

After the historic win of BJP in 2016, Sarma had said: “This victory of BJP has been historic. It is more significant and sweet to me as it has come just after I was insulted and humiliated in the Congress party by its vice-president Rahul Gandhi and chief minister Tarun Gogoi,” alleging that when a fight broke out in a meeting of Assam Congress leaders that he had called, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi seemed oblivious and more interested in his dog. 

It is believed that Himanta Biswa Sarma was the chief architect of the Congress victory in Assam in 2011, but he left the grand old party and joined the BJP in 2015. After Biswa turned his back to the Congress party, the later lost its hold in the state. In 2016, BJP secured a historic victory in the north-eastern state of Assam by winning 60 of the 126 seats, and securing 86 seats for the NDA alliance, while the Congress party won merely 25 seats.


Well, heading the central government for more than 54 years, the history of the Congress, until recently, ran almost parallel with the history of India. For so many years the grand old party dominated at the central as well as the state levels. However, over the years, probably due to nepotism and dominance of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, many regional leaders have ditched the party to either merge into others or to form their own party, leaving the Congress decimated in many states where it once held preponderance.

Both Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia were said to be deserving candidates for the CM’s post. But, while the Congress high command prefers loyalists over deserving candidates, it is also said that it does not want young leaders like Sachin and Scindia to ‘give competition’ to Rahul Gandhi.

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