10 people the Congress forgot to use

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A political party is also defined by those who differ from within. Here are a few the Congress might have benefited from, but didn’t

By Vijay Simha and Sopan Joshi

1. VP Singh
Last important position held
Prime Minister, 1989-1990

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED
He had the posts, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Union Finance Minister, Defence Minister; but not the freedom. All he needed was Rajiv Gandhi’s backing when he was gunning for corporate giants like Dhirubhai Ambani for tax evasion.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Not backing Singh’s clean-up drive made the Congress look like a dishonest organisation. Rajiv got stuck with Bofors. The party lost support among the OBCs. And has since kowtowed to big money even more.

2. Chandra Shekhar
Last important position held
Prime Minister, 1990-1991

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED 
The original Young Turk in the party, Chandra Shekhar suggested that Indira Gandhi have a dialogue with Jayaprakash Narayan and reconcile rather than confront. Indira responded by isolating Shekhar as a foe within the Congress.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Not heeding Shekhar led the Congress into a headlong battle with JP’s Total Revolution. Indira imposed Emergency and sent Shekhar and many others to prison. The Congress lost power for the first time in Delhi.

3. Mohan Dharia
Last important position held
Dy Chair, Planning Commission, 1990-1991

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED 
An early environmentalist in the Congress, who argued for people-sensitive, eco-sensitive policies. Still argues for merger of the NCP with the Congress in Maharashtra.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Pune, where Dharia is based, is reeling under some of India’s biggest encroachments of hill land. Plus, the NCP is a major irritant.

4. Madhavrao Scindia
Last important position held
Congress Dy Leader, Lok Sabha, 1999

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED
Argued for modernisation of the railways and the airways as union minister. Strong chief ministerial contender in Madhya Pradesh who never made it.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Sided with Lalu in a desperate deal, and sank swiftly. Had no energy and stayed low profile. Stayed away from the Congress.

5. Rajesh Pilot
Last important position held
Minister of Environment, 1995-1996

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED 
Had transparency plans for the Congress, but lost party presidency election to Sitaram Kesri. Also, had pro-people inputs on Kashmir and the Northeast as minister in-charge.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
The Congress was seen as a dirty tricks party that did not encourage clean and young politicians. The BJP was interested in Pilot but he stuck on in the Congress.

6. PR Kumaramangalam
Last important position held
Minister of Power, 1999-2000

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED 
Ranga wanted an internal revolution in the Congress for it to cleanse itself of selfishness. Had big plans on the power front too.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Big blow when Ranga, founder president of the Congress students wing NSUI, joined the BJP. Helped the BJP gain presence in Tamil Nadu.

7. SS Ahluwalia
Last important position held
BJP Dy Leader,Rajya Sabha, 2010

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED 
Member of Rajiv Gandhi’s shouting brigade, Ahluwalia wanted Sonia to apologise for the Congress’ role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Joined the BJP in 1999. The Congress lost a man they could’ve used in Punjab, where they are still wary.

8. Najma Heptulla
Last important position held
Dy Chair, Rajya Sabha, 1998-2004

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED 
Prominent Muslim Congress senior who was not too comfortable with the anointing of Sonia as party president. Would’ve liked being vice-president, at least.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Joined the BJP in 2004 after much cold war with Congress leadership. No Muslim senior from Madhya Pradesh is now visible in the Congress.

9. Balasaheb V Patil
Last important position held
Union Minister of Heavy Industries, 2002-2003

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED
Probably the best Congress administrator in Maharashtra Has huge rural following in the state. Understands finance.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Not making him chief minister meant the Congress has had to make with dodgy characters and repeated embarrassments.

10. Jagan Reddy
Last important position held
Member, Lok Sabha

WHAT THE PARTY OVERLOOKED 
YSR’s impatient son who sees himself as Andhra Pradesh chief minister. Was not accommodated at the Centre, either as junior minister or in the party.


AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT
Quit the Congress to form a new party, in a couple of months. In a tense Andhra Pradesh, he could hurt the Congress significantly.

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