After facing a humiliating defeat in the 2019 general elections the Congress camp is yet to recover from the jolt. Dissent and leadership crisis has plagued the grand old party which added a few seats to its total of 44 in the 2014 general election to arrive at dismal 52 in 2019. Supposedly strong leaders like Mallikarjuna Kharge, Jyotiraditya Scindia even Rahul Gandhi has lost from erstwhile strongholds of the Congress.
Now, following more than a month-long drama over his resignation, Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday nearly put rest to all the speculations. Rahul Gandhi had posted his four page resignation on micro blogging platform twitter and said “It is an honor for me to serve the Congress Party, whose values and ideals have served as the lifeblood of our beautiful nation. I owe the country and my organization a debt of tremendous gratitude and love. Jai Hind”
It is an honour for me to serve the Congress Party, whose values and ideals have served as the lifeblood of our beautiful nation.
I owe the country and my organisation a debt of tremendous gratitude and love.
Jai Hind ?? pic.twitter.com/WWGYt5YG4V
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 3, 2019
However, the doubts over Rahul Gandhi continuing as Congress president are not totally over as the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the executive committee of the Indian National Congress is yet to accept Rahul Gandhi’s resignation. Filled with Gandhi loyalists CWC had earlier rejected the resignation tendered by Rahul Gandhi over a month ago. Rahul Gandhi has, however, updated his twitter bio according to the new developments.
“Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his address to the CWC offered his resignation as the party president. The CWC unanimously and with one voice rejected the same and requested the Congress President for his leadership and guidance in these challenging times,” said the resolution passed by CWC.
In his resignation letter, Rahul Gandhi has urged the Congress Working Committee that the new president should be elected by the CWC. He writes in his resignation:
“Many of my colleagues suggested that I nominate the next Congress President. While it is important for someone new to lead our party, it would not be correct for me to select that person. Ours is a party with a profound history and heritage, one of struggle and dignity that I deeply respect. It is woven into the fabric of India and I trust the party will make the best decision regarding who can lead us with courage, love and fidelity.”
However, for Congress, the leadership crisis goes deeper than the question of Rahul Gandhi. Over decades the organizational structure of Congress has been systematically transformed from a cadre-based party to family run show. All the important positions of the Congress’ organizational structure are predominantly decided by a group of select individuals which form the so-called Congress Working Committee. Full of Gandhi-Nehru-Vadra family loyalists, CWC of the Congress has been notorious for taking unilateral decisions based on the whims and wishes of Gandhi-Nehru family.
However, the search for a new Congress President is surely not going to be an easy task for the family-run party. Several media reports have been putting forward the name of veteran Congress leader Motilal Vora as the front runner to take over as the working President. The name of 90-year-old veteran leader emerging in the race comes as surprise for many; however, for those familiar with the operations in the Congress had expected a staunch Gandhi loyalist to take over the top post. While Rahul Gandhi in his resignation calls for “Accountability” and taking “hard decisions” , The appointment of Motilal Vora to the top post is surely following the trend of Congress party to put up Gandhi loyalists at important positions who have traditionally kept ‘accountability’ at the back seat and taking ‘hard decisions’ a distant reality.
Motilal Vora served as the CM of Madhya Pradesh from 1985 to 1988 before he was made a minister in the union cabinet. He was also the Governor of Uttar Pradesh from 1993 to 1996. While the party suffers from a deep leadership and organizational crisis, the path ahead for Motilal Vora will surely be an uphill battle.
The defining characteristic of Motilal Vora has been his proximity with the Nehru-Gandhi family. He is among the Congress leaders who have served under Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi. Among the loyalists, he is considered the ‘insider’s insider’. A known ‘yes man’ who has served as the care-takers of Nehru-Gandhi family’s pet projects such as AJL and Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Trust, is surely the perfect choice for the Nehru-Gandhi family as the president of the Congress. The appointment of Motilal Vora can serve multiple purposes. It will not only satisfy the meek voices of ‘change’ in the Congress but also ensure that there is no real leadership change. In that way, Motilal Vora will ensure the continued hold of the Nehru-Gandhi family on the Congress party.
The emergence of Motilal Vora’s name has also raised alarms among observers and analysts because of his alleged involvement in the multi-crore National Herald Scam along with Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
In the National Herald corruption case in which the Congress’ top brass, especially Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, are alleged to have minted crores from an ailing news agency called National Herald. National Herald had become defunct by 2008. According to the court proceedings, as made public, the accused are allegedly charged with the provisions of misappropriation of property, criminal breach of trust, cheating and criminal conspiracy under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
According to media reports, Plagued by lack of revenues the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) the publisher of National herald, had stopped publishing in 2008. To revive the ailing company the Congress party gave the AJL unsecured, interest-free loans for a few years up to 2010. In the same year the AICC decided to assign AJL’s nearly Rs 90 crore debt to Young Indian; a company formed in 2010 with Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi holding 38 % stake each and the remaining 24 percent held by Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandez in equal parts. Following in December 2010, AJL decided to transfer its entire equity to Young Indian in lieu of YIL owning its Rs 90 crore debt. Young Indian paid 50 lakh for this acquisition and AJL became a fully-owned subsidiary of Young Indian. AJL also published the Qaumi Awaz in Urdu and Navjeevan in Hindi. The company owns prime real estate in various cities, including Delhi and Mumbai worth hundreds of crores.
In addition to his involvement with Young Indian as a stakeholder, Motilal Vora has also been the chairman and managing director of AJL since March 22, 2002. He has been the treasurer of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) from well before that, this interrelation of stakeholders and the Companies surely raise eyebrows. However, Motilal Vora’s alleged involvement in corruption cases such as the National Herald surely puts in doubt on Rahul Gandhi’s claim of clean leadership, who himself was allegedly involved in the scam. But for the purpose of maintaining the hold of Nehru-Gandhi family over the Congress party, there is no better choice than Motilal Vora.