The drama and a rather theatrical outburst which was reported from within the Congress Working Committee meeting yesterday has on expected lines, yielded no immediate constructive results, as Sonia Gandhi agreed to continue as interim Congress chief for the next six months. The catch: All India Congress Committee (AICC) will be initiating the process of choosing the new Congress President immediately so as to execute a leadership change at the top. While many might consider what we are about to say to be a brazen proposition, but it is highly likely that the Congress could get a non-Gandhi President after all.
The revolt in the Congress this time around is just too big to be quenched without solid groundwork on the demands of the rebels, and it involves far too big political heavyweights than the Congress would ideally like. The letter of dissent called upon the party to undertake a radical change in leadership, such that the person heading the party do so in an effective way, with its effects being visible on the ground. Some of those who have signed the said letter include party stalwarts like Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tiwari, Bhupinder Singh Hooda among others.
An alleged statement of Rahul Gandhi, which got reported by all sections of media, but what was later denied by the party, referred to the dissident leaders of the Congress as those who were ‘colluding with the BJP’. This single statement, which the Congress claims was falsely attributed to Rahul Gandhi by the entirety of Indian media exposed the palpable trust deficit between senior Congress leaders and the Gandhi family. It also showed how senior leaders like Sibal and Azad were already on the edge, and upon hearing such a statement coming from Rahul Gandhi, could not help but throw a fit of rage.
The Congress (read – Gandhis) went into immediate damage control, with Rahul calling up Kapil Sibal personally and speaking to him. Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi expressed her hurt with regards to the letter, and also assured the party that she is willing to forget all that happened and work alongside everyone. However, while many might think that it was the Gandhis who prevailed in yesterday’s power tussle, in the long run, which is to say in the next six months, it is the dissident leaders who will be paid heed to.
The Gandhis will need to work overtime to satisfy the genuine demands of the senior leaders who have decided to dissent against the status quo. Although unsaid as yet, a major demand of theirs naturally would be to see a more responsible and far more astute non-Gandhi leader taking the reins of the party. As much as the Gandhis would frown at the prospect of it, they cannot afford to remain rigid any longer and pretend that everything is fine while they themselves are the cause of an unprecedented fire within the Congress, which if not extinguished in the next six months with the Gandhis taking the backseat, will consume whatever remains of the party.
What only a year ago was being looked at as a mere formality is today being considered the last straw and an obvious necessity to save the Congress. When Rahul Gandhi stepped down as the Congress president following the party’s hilarious performance in the 2019 polls despite much grandstanding and name-calling, people were more or less convinced that this was a post-defeat formality and that things would get back to normal in no time.
Rahul Gandhi, however, began trying his luck; or perhaps even found an escape from the tedious world of politics into which he was pushed, owing to his lineage. As such, despite repeated requests from party-mates to resume his Presidency of the party, the man refused. Sonia Gandhi, as a result, was forced to step in as interim Congress chief and will continue on that post for six more months. The senior-most leaders of the party, however, are now convinced that only a non-Gandhi can lead the party now.
This runs contrary to the ambitions of the mother-daughter-son trio. The Gandhis have for so long held an unquestionable authority over the party, and it is perhaps for the very first time that their position as the karta-dhartas of the party is being questioned on such a large scale, by no less than people who have remained ever-loyal stooges of theirs. For them to lose the confidence of those leaders who have always religiously reposed their faith in the Gandhis comes as a rude shock. All in all, the family has suddenly been made to realise that they no longer enjoy the favour of those leaders in the party who also matter to some considerable extent.
The Gandhis are losing their grip over the party. The dissidents are not willing to rest without having their demands being met. As such, the Congress is, in all likelihood, all set to see a non-Gandhi President being chosen/elected. The Gandhis must be considering a sabbatical from leadership roles, as that is the only plausible solution that remains in sight for them to even dream of returning to their erstwhile glory within the party in the future. Of course, they can also simply install a non-Gandhi stooge as the President and control the party from the shadows. The family would be surprising nobody if it chooses to do so. If any Gandhi installs themselves on the party throne though, they will be reduced to not more than a comical circus, and the people of India will stop considering the Congress to be a political entity any longer.