Digvijay Singh bats for Rahul Gandhi

The 45-minute-long drive — provided there is no traffic — from the Congress headquarters in Delhi to Burari gets progressively more and more depressing as you near the northern semi-urban edge of this huge metropolis. Indeed, it is not quite clear what message the Grand Old Party intended by giving the conclusion of 125 years of its existence and its 83rd plenary session such a bleak setting: Is this where the aam aadmi lives? Apparently chosen so as not to disrupt daily life in the city, the event appeared to have been scaled down, when compared to the 82nd plenary in Hyderabad in 2006. Even the posters en route to the venue — photographs of the triumvirate, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi — were distinctly unimaginative, unlike the giant cut-outs in Hyderabad.

Maybe, the message was austerity in this season of big budget scams.

Of the current crop of general secretaries, it is Digvijay Singh, who is the most apt at stirring up a controversy. On Sunday, he didn't fail his audience. Not only did he make one of the strongest — possibly the strongest — speech of the day, and had words of praise not just for Prime Minister Singh, Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Gandhi, but a range of other party leaders including the man he likes to spar most with — Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

But the highlight was his message that it was time to make way for Rahul Gandhi's Congress. Rajiv Gandhi, he pointed out, had made him and (Ms. Gandhi's all-important Political Secretary) Ahmed Patel State Congress presidents when they were 36-37 years old, while bringing into his team Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, senior Congress leader Oscar Fernandes and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. “Now, our expiry date is nearing,” he said, tongue in cheek, stressing, “I am confident Rahul Gandhi will make his own team.”

Given the import of the remarks, it caused some discomfort in party ranks as Ms. Gandhi is in the process of re-constituting the Congress Working Committee, the apex decision-making body of the party. But the younger contingent was pleased, as many among them believe that several members of the old guard are not too keen on Mr. Gandhi assuming the reins of the party, as that would mean many of them would be history.

* * *

Ms. Gandhi may have been silent on the issue of poll alliances but that did not prevent two vocal MPs from airing their views on the subject: While West Bengal MP Deepa Dasmunsi hit out at the Trinamool Congress, Tamil Nadu's Manick Tagore took on the DMK. The Congress, they both said, should not suffer because of poll alliances.

Ms. Dasmunsi made a frontal attack on the Trinamool, saying it had no business criticising the UPA's policies and hitting the streets on issues such as price rise, while being part of the government. “When she [Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee] inaugurates a project in West Bengal there is no photograph of the Prime Minister or Sonia Gandhi. Only at times, Pranabda [Mukherjee] is invited. No courtesy is shown to them,” she said.

“Even after our allies commit mistakes, we still carry them on our shoulders...We give them those seats which are safe and where the Congress is strong,” she said in a hard-hitting speech. Mr. Tagore too said that “the self-respect of the Congress and its activists is more important” in order to achieve the dream of ‘Kamaraj rule' in Tamil Nadu.

The impact of the Bihar poll disaster was felt for a while at the venue of the plenary on Sunday, when some party activists physically accosted the general secretary in charge of Bihar, Mukul Wasnik. Squarely blaming him for the poor results, they shouted slogans and accused him of distributing tickets to undeserving candidates for a “price.” Upset, Mr. Wasnik denied that the party had made a mistake by going it alone in Bihar. “It was a new beginning. Nobody was thinking that we would make our way easily. We wanted to create our own space in Bihar ... the path may be longer,” he said.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 9:24:54 PM |

Next Story