Congress chiefs of 5 states resign over poll debacle following Sonia direction

The Congress chiefs in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur – have resigned after party president Sonia Gandhi Tuesday asked them to do so in the wake of the party’s disastrous performance in the recent Assembly elections in those states. Gandhi’s move was meant to “facilitate reorganisation of Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs)” in these states, according to the All India Congress Committee (AICC)’s communication department head Randeep Surjewala.

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Ajay Kumar Lallu, UP PCC chief

Following Sonia Gandhi’s direction, the 42-year-old UP Congress chief, Ajay Kumar Lallu, stepped down on Tuesday itself, owning responsibility for the party’s drubbing in the state. He said he would continue to work hard for the party.

He was picked by the AICC general secretary in charge of UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, to head the state Congress unit after the party’s debacle in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Lallu, who was the Congress Legislature Party leader till then, was appointed the UP Pradesh Congress Committee (UPPCC) chief, as the party needed a “sangharshasheel” (one who struggles) leader to fight on the streets on public issues and be ready to even go to jail.

As part of his efforts to revive the Congress, which has been in political wilderness in UP for over three decades, Lallu held many protests and dharnas across the state over various issues in the last few years, especially during the Covid pandemic, and was also arrested several times.

Belonging to a farming family and known for being a “humble and down-to-earth” leader, Lallu began his political career as a “chatra neta” (student leader) in Kushinagar district and even contested as an independent candidate in 2007 Assembly polls, which he lost. He first became MLA from Kushinagar’s Tamkuhi Raj in the 2012 Assembly polls as a Congress candidate, going on to win from the constituency against all odds in the 2017 elections too.

Lallu, however, lost the election from his seat this time, with the Congress’s marginal status in UP politics reportedly hurting his prospects.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, Punjab PCC chief

After a tumultuous eight-month stint, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu Wednesday resigned as the Punjab Congress president. “As desired by the Congress President I have sent my resignation,” Sidhu tweeted, posting his hand-written, one-line letter stating tersely that “I hereby resign as President (PPCC)”.

Sidhu lost his own Amritsar East seat in the Assembly polls swept by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). A Sidhu associate said he has proceeded on a “maun vrat (vow of silence) for two months”.

After the ruling Congress was decimated in Punjab, Sidhu drew fire from various quarters for his alleged bids to undermine his own party’s government led by CM Charanjit Singh Channi.

Sidhu had defected to the Congress from the BJP, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)’s former ally, ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls.

He had raised a banner of revolt against the former Congress CM Captain Amarinder Singh, which eventually led to the latter’s ouster and Channi’s elevation to his position.

But, aspiring for the CM’s post himself, Sidhu regularly betrayed his resentment against Channi. Just ahead of the current polls, when the Congress announced Channi as its CM candidate, Sidhu was forced to take a back seat and fall in line.

Sidhu was equally critical of the SAD, when he was the BJP MP from Amritsar. He used to then attack the SAD-led Punjab government for not giving him a “free hand”, a charge he repeated against the Amarinder-led Congress government.

Ganesh Godiyal, Uttarakhand PCC chief

Close on the heels of Gandhi’s resignation directive to the PCC chiefs of five states, Uttarakhand Congress president Ganesh Godiyal, 56, tendered his resignation, owning responsibility for the party’s poor showing in the state.

From working as a cattle herder to selling fruits and vegetables on the Mumbai streets, Godiyal has had a remarkable journey so far. He entered active politics with a bang in the 2002 Assembly polls when he defeated then BJP minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Thalisain seat.

Godiyal was then on a mission to establish a college in Raath area of his home district Pauri Garhwal. He lost to Nishank in 2007 from his seat. Following delimitation, in 2012, Talisain was made part of Srinagar seat, and Godiyal defeated the BJP’s Dhan Singh Rawat there.

In 2016, when 9 Congress MLAs rebelled against then CM Harish Rawat’s leadership following which his government was dislodged, Godiyal had stayed loyal to the party and became close to Rawat, who then took several steps for Raath’s development.

In the 2017 elections, Godiyal lost his seat to Dhan amid the Narendra Modi wave.

On July 22 last year, he was appointed as the Uttarakhand Congress president. In the current polls, he again lost to Dhan, albeit narrowly.

Girish Chodankar, Goa PCC chief

The 54-year-old Goa Congress president, Girish Chodankar, also resigned, accepting responsibility for the party’s defeat in the state Assembly polls.

He had announced on March 10 itself, the day the election results were declared, that he would make way for a new PCC chief after the Congress lost the election winning only 11 seats in the 40-member House. He had then said, “As the party president I accept my failure…I feel that the time has come that the party should have a new president in my place.”

This was, however, not the first time that Chodankar resigned. He had earlier tendered his resignation twice, after the Congress performed poorly in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the 2020 state Zilla Panchayat elections. The AICC leadership had, however, not accepted his resignations then, asking him to continue as the state unit head. In August 2021, it again scotched speculation over the change in the Goa Congress leadership.

Chodankar, who was appointed the Goa PCC chief in 2018, had a turbulent stint during which the Congress not only lost ground in elections but also saw its strength in the Assembly plunge to just one MLA ahead of the current polls after having won 17 seats in the 2017 polls.

N Loken Singh, Manipur PCC chief

The Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief, N Loken Singh, tendered his resignation on Wednesday. In his resignation letter submitted to Gandhi, he stated that “taking responsibility for the major defeat” of the party candidates in the recent Manipur Assembly polls, he was stepping down from his position on “moral ground”.

Loken Singh, 53, had been elected to the Assembly for five straight terms from Nambol constituency in Bishnupur district, but he lost to the BJP’s Thounaojam Basanta Kumar Singh this time by more than 3,000 votes. His run of electoral victories had started in 1995, when he won on a Manipur People’s Party (MPP) ticket. In 2002, he contested on the Congress ticket and remained unbeaten for another three terms.

Loken Singh also served in the Cabinet of former Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, and held the post of the state Congress vice president before becoming the state unit’s interim chief last August following the defection of ex-MPCC chief Govindas Konthoujam to the BJP. He was appointed as the full-time state unit president in October 2021.

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