Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has conveyed to newly elected President Mallikarjun Kharge that he would not interfere in organisational matters, and the latter was free to make decisions independently, party sources have said.
Mr. Gandhi, who took a break from his Bharat Jodo Yatra, was in the capital to witness Mr. Kharge taking charge as President, did not meet party Chief Ministers — Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan and Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh — who had sought time from him. Mr. Gandhi also refused to be involved in the ongoing process to select the party candidates for the coming Gujarat Assembly elections. He also did not call on Mr. Kharge privately.
Though Mr. Gandhi had earlier said that he would report to the elected president of the party, ambiguity about his role continues to confuse party leaders. Mr. Gandhi appears eager to dispel this confusion and bring clarity — that he wouldn’t be involved in decision making. If Mr. Gandhi insists on staying aloof from organisational matters, and charts an independent course of political action within the party, that could empower and burden Mr. Kharge at once. A senior Congress leader told The Hindu that though Mr. Gandhi appears firm about non-involvement at the moment, there would be pressure on him to change his mind. Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah tweeted that he met Mr. Gandhi, along with a picture, on Wednesday.
Not in a hurry
Mr. Kharge on his part has told Congress leaders he would be treading according to guidance from the Gandhis — mimicking the BJP in which the last word is not with the party president. “He draws authority from the perception that the Gandhi family backs him,” a party functionary said. The new president has signalled to others that he was not in a hurry to make changes. All too familiar with the intrigues that his colleagues are capable of, Mr. Kharge appears cautious about acting autonomously or unilaterally, according to party leaders who interacted with him in recent days.
Mr. Gandhi had stood his ground in the face of pressure to return as party president, paving the way for a non-Gandhi at the helm. If he disconnects himself from routine decisions of the party, leaders might face a hard time adjusting to the new reality. Such a stand by Mr. Gandhi will also loosen the involvement of his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the days ahead. In Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot, and in Chhattisgarh, T.S. Singh Deo are hoping that the central leadership will support their bids to replace the current Chief Ministers. Mr. Kharge will have his task cut out.