The results this month of the five assembly elections had many interpretations and one common conclusion: Congress is in decline. But no one can say that the party isn’t a prized political finishing school. Three of the five CMs, Mamata Banerjee, Himanta Biswa Sarma and N Rangaswamy, cut their teeth in Congress. In West Bengal, both CM and leader of opposition once won elections on a Congress ticket. It can be safely said that even if Congress is fading, its erstwhile youth brigade shines.
For many of India’s leaders, politics is their soul. Their political journey is reminiscent of the foundational doctrine of Indic religions, samsara. Rebirth is always possible in another party and movement over time is cyclic. YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Congress Lok Sabha MP from Kadapa in 2009, eventually became Andhra Pradesh’s CM in 2019, having led his regional party YSR Congress to victory. His neighbour, Telangana’s CM K Chandrashekar Rao, too has had an eventful journey through different parties before successfully launching one. Canny politicians have proven themselves to be more nimble than the party that may have provided the launch pad.
If Congress appears to be the ship that is leaking many stalwarts, it is not an exception. The current DMK government in Tamil Nadu has ministers who once served governments run by its principal rival AIADMK. In Gujarat, Shankersinh Vaghela migrated from BJP to Congress and kept moving. Sometimes, the movement has been cyclical. BS Yediyurappa, BJP’s first CM in a south Indian state, left for a while to form his own party. He eventually returned and is now once again the CM of Karnataka’s BJP government. A unique feature of Indian politics is a class of politicians whose success transcends that of their original parties.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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