SONIA’S PLAN … Rahul Gandhi likely to get back to the Cong president post

IMAGE CREDIT … Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI: Political circles linked to the tricolor party in the capital are weighing the pros and cons of a Rahul Gandhi return to the presidentship of the Congress Party. Sonia Gandhi who heads the party as its interim president reportedly gave hints she does not want to take an active role and wants her son to return to the party’s helm.

For one, Sonia Gandhi is not in the best of her health. The election results in Maharashtra have sunk her spirits further. The party that reigned supreme in the state for long years has taken the fourth position, with 44 seats, a very poor showing for the second time, while the Shiv Sena and the NCP got more seats than the Congress. In Haryana too, the party could get no more than 31 seats in the 90-member assembly. Congress went to the electoral arena in both the states under her present leadership; yet it made no positive difference to the party.

The strategy the party adopted to share power with the Shiv Sena and the NCP showed its desperation, but not everyone in the party is enthused at the way the Congress joined hands with the two parties – one known for its communalist bend and the other a bundle of crude vested interests. This was time to allow the BJP finish off the Shiv Sena and the NCP, which could have left the field open to the BJP and the Congress to fight things out in future. Instead, the Congress satisfied itself with the role of the third position in government. It got Revenue, while the NCP took the more important Finance and the Sena the Home. Revenue is good to make money for the party leaders, though. An argument is that this would help the Congress raise funds from Mumbai, what is India’s financial capital where money talks.

The old guard in the Congress was somewhat happy that Sonia has taken the leadership of the party again. But, they have their apprehensions now that Rahul Gandhi would come back to further “spoil” the show. The new set of young leaders that Rahul Gandhi relied on for support when he was party chief is anathema to the old guard. Feelings are strong that these young leaders did no good to the party and that they simply fooled around. 

Feelings are also that the entry of Priyanka Gandhi as party general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh has not helped instill confidence in the party in any manner. Both Rahul and Priyanka have a casual approach to handling leadership positions, these leaders feel, and this is in direct contrast to what happens in the BJP – where tough taskmasters like PM Modi and home minister Amit Shah crafted between them a lethal combination. BJP is leaving nothing to chance.

Even as the Congress has joined the bandwagon against the Citizenship Law and hesitantly lent its weight behind the protests, it is in a dilemma. The wider mass of the population, the Hindus, in the north Indian states are in support of the governmental step. The Congress cannot afford to lead a fight against the new law against Bangladeshi illegals at the cost of antagonizing the Hindus. The Left can do so because it has no support base, and is led by a bunch of rootless figures like Sitaram Yechury and Doraisamy Raja. As a last resort, these leaders are trying to fashion the Left in India as an advocacy group for Muslims in the hope of getting electoral support from the second largest population size. The Hindu base was already appropriated by the BJP.

The Delhi elections are approaching, and a general impression is that the fight here will be between the AAP and the BJP. The Congress has little of functional organizational machinery in Delhi today, also because of the leadership-related uncertainties haunting the party for quite some time both at the state level and the high command level. While as party chief, Rahul Gandhi took no noticeable steps to revitalize the party in Delhi and other states where it is steadily losing its support bases. If Sonia Gandhi was the last trump card, the LS poll results in UP that swept the Congress aside have put paid to such ambitions.

The BJP, on the other hand, is leaving nothing to chance and is taking bold steps through its government at the Centre. Support at mass level is massive for the Kashmir article abrogation (370) and the present move against Bangladeshi illegals even as it is adopting a double standard vis-à-vis the law for grant of citizenship to refugees, migrants and illegals. All this is causing considerable desperation in the Congress leadership. 

At the same time, the party is not fully down and out. It has a firm foothold in quite a few states and in a position to give the BJP a run for its money – like in the Jharkhand assembly polls, wherein hints are that the Congress will grab power from the BJP. BJP had experimented with a non-tribal as CM in the past five years, and the largely tribal, mineral rich, and backward state is likely to give the BJP a slap on its face in this polls, the results of which are expected this coming week. The party already has Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in its kitty. IHN-NN


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