Congress leadership National

Sonia’s firm stand seeks to formalise Rahul’s role

Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi’s sharp rebuttal at the Congress Working Committee meeting on October 16, 2021, seems to have had the desired effect.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Sonia Gandhi’s assertion of being a “full time, hands-on” Congress president was, perhaps, aimed at achieving two immediate objectives. First, it was a clear message to the group of 23 (G-23) leaders — the group that is seeking internal reforms and a “visible and effective leadership” — that she is still the boss.

Second, and more importantly, it was meant to convey her endorsement of some of the recent decisions taken by the party that had clear imprints of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Whether it was the elevation of Navjot Singh Sidhu as the Punjab Congress chief or unseating of Amarinder Singh as Punjab Chief Minister or the induction of former JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, several decisions, that are believed to be driven by the Gandhi siblings, have come under scrutiny.

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Open challenge

“In our party, at the moment, there is no president. So, we don’t know who is taking these decisions” — senior G-23 leader Kapil Sibal’s comments at a press conference had thrown an open challenge to the Gandhis.

Ms. Gandhi’s sharp rebuttal at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on October 16 seems to have had the desired effect.

Inside the CWC, G-23 leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma reiterated their faith in her leadership and were satisfied with the concession of holding the organisational elections (a key G-23 demand); at a press conference outside, general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal took on journalists who had asked in what capacity Mr. Gandhi was trying to resolve the leadership crises in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Punjab.

“We will take decisions as per our party interests. The entire Congress, its rank and file, support Shri Rahul Gandhi for his commitment and dedication to fight on principles. I want to tell you one more thing. Every single decision of the party is taken by honourable Congress president, Smt. Sonia Gandhi. She is competent, capable and nobody can question her leadership,” he told reporters on Saturday.

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Ms. Gandhi’s statement at the CWC sought to formalise the informal arrangement: Mr. Gandhi would be central to decision making whether or not he enjoys any formal position.

In fact, on Saturday evening, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who had been delaying if not avoiding an expansion of his Cabinet to accommodate supporters of arch rival Sachin Pilot, called on Mr. Gandhi to discuss the issue.

Before this, on Thursday, Mr. Sidhu had met Mr. Gandhi to iron out his differences with Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi.

And in Chhattisgarh, the former Congress chief is already playing the role of an umpire between Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Health Minister T.S. Singh Deo in their leadership tussle.

Eventual elevation

But beyond the immediate context, by deciding to elect a new party chief only by September 20 next year, the Congress and Ms. Gandhi seem to be preparing the ground for Mr. Gandhi’s eventual elevation ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

In the next 11 months, Mr. Gandhi will have enough time and space to take the party in a direction that he thinks is best suited to take on the Narendra Modi government.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 9:42:10 AM |

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