Since the past 15 years, during the time of UPA I, Sonia Gandhi’s sole aim has been to groom Rahul Gandhi to take on the party leadership. In this regard, she had kept the power in the party to herself, appointing a public figure for the Prime Ministerial post but as the party president, she held the reigns firmly in her own hands. Having lost the elections in 2014, Sonia Gandhi increased her emphasis on Rahul Gandhi, and ultimately thought him to be of age and crowned him in 2017 as the party president. However, in the past 1 ½ years, things have taken such a downward turn that Sonia Gandhi has had to come out of her voluntary retirement.
With the final phase of the election left, Sonia Gandhi has set things in motion in order to unite the opposition with the NDA government, similar to what she had done back in 2004. She has reached out to almost all the opposition party leaders including the DMK president Stalin and JDS leader HD Deve Gowda to check their availability on May 21, 22 and 23 for a strategy meeting in Delhi. The list includes not just Congress allies but also other like-minded parties like the BJD and the TRS. It has also been reported that she contacted NCP leader Sharad Pawar and the Uttar Pradesh opposition alliance partners, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. This move has been Sonia Gandhi’s attempt to keep petty politics aside and unite to remove Narendra Modi from power. The Congress is envisaging a fractured result and hence wants to garner the support of as many parties as possible, acting together in furtherance to their common intention of removing the NDA government. The Congress is keen to waste “no time” on May 23, so it wants opposition forces together in Delhi so that if and when the opportunity arises, everyone can be prepared. With this understanding with the opposition, Sonia Gandhi hopes to be the first one to get an invite from President Ram Nath Kovind to form the government.
However, things are not as smooth as Sonia Gandhi anticipated. When it comes to the Prime Ministerial post, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala stated, “As the single largest party we will have a stake on leadership but it will be dependent on the results.” Due to the Congress staking a claim on the leadership, at least three key opposition leaders, which are, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and her ally Akhilesh Yadav, may skip the meet altogether. Both Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee are seen to be in the race for the post of the Prime Minister.
The opposition parties have been united on two other occasions this election season. Firstly, the opposition parties had asked for a verification of the 50% of the VVPAT slips which has been dismissed by the Supreme Court; and secondly, the opposition parties planned to give a signed letter to the President, claiming support for an alternative way of forming the government.
However, what is queer about the situation is that it is Sonia Gandhi and not Rahul Gandhi who has called the meetings to meet the opposition leaders. Sonia Gandhi had conducted a similar exercise in 2004 when she had been the Congress president. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi, being the present Congress president should have made the effort to unite all the parties.
This action by Congress simply reinforces Rahul Gandhi’s failed leadership. In the past 5 years, when Rahul Gandhi was in the limelight, and Sonia Gandhi was sidelined, the party suffered irrevocable damage to its repute and popularity.
Sonia Gandhi had hoped to take retirement after Rahul Gandhi was crowned the party president in 2017. She had stated that her role is now to retire. However, Rahul Gandhi, it seems, has denied his mother this voluntary pleasure of retirement. Sonia Gandhi had tried to stay in on the sidelines and hadn’t done much campaigning for the present elections. However, seeing Rahul Gandhi’s imbecility lead to huge losses she has finally had to come in, in the final phase.
Since it is clear that Congress will not get the support of the voters on its own, enough to form a government, garnering the support of the opposition parties is one last way through which the grand old party might hope to form a government. It seems that the dynast’s mother has ended her pretense of believing in and encouraging her son, and has taken it upon herself to accomplish this final, crucial task of the congress to save the party from being completely irrelevant in the next term.