The Gandhis’ unwillingness to trust anyone besides their own family members to carry on the party torch is what has led them to this dismal state of affairs today. Since the time of independence, the Gandhi family members have taken the role of leading the party one after the other, disregarding all other capable members. But in a new turn of events, it seems that Party President Sonia Gandhi is now unwilling to even hand over the baton to her own son, Rahul Gandhi, and prefers to stay at the helm of affairs for as long as she can.
On Wednesday, the Congress party lost one of its most senior, loyal and foundational leaders, Ahmed Patel due to COVID-19. Leaving an irrevocable void in the Congress which is far from ever being filled, his loss will perhaps ensure the ruin of the Grand Old Party. Patel was Sonia Gandhi’s trouble-shooter, firefighter, peacemaker, and much more, all wrapped in one. More than anything, he was Sonia Gandhi’s closest aide and confidante. She described him as her “irreplaceable comrade and a faithful colleague”.
Ahmed Patel’s greatest virtue was his loyalty to Sonia Gandhi. Deeply involved in all confidential party matters, he held unwavering backing of the senior leadership at any given time. Such was his role that no one person today is in the position of filling that void.
However, all things considered, Sonia Gandhi has moved on from her grief and has re-instated another loyalist to replace Ahmed Patel. Former MP Pawan Kumar Bansal has been appointed as the treasurer of All India Congress Committee. Though Ahmed Patel’s shoes are too big to be filled by one person, this action of Sonia Gandhi indicates that she has faith in Bansal to at least attempt to do so.
— Congress (@INCIndia) November 28, 2020
After being appointed, Bansal said, “I thank Congress President Sonia Gandhi ji and Rahul ji for posing faith in me and discharging the duty with full responsibility shall be my endeavour.”
He also tweeted, “I am extremely grateful to Hon’ble Congress President and Sh.@RahulGandhifor reposing confidence and trust in me and assign the additional responsibility of Treasurer, AICC”
I am extremely grateful to Hon’ble Congress President and Sh.@RahulGandhi for reposing confidence and trust in me and assign the additional responsibility of Treasurer, AICC
— Pawan Kumar Bansal (@pawanbansal_chd) November 28, 2020
The main reason for his appointment seems to be the trustworthiness. Pawan Kumar Bansal is a veteran Congress leader, who held plump cabinet posts of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Parliamentary Affairs, Water Resources and Railways during UPA-2. One of the key reasons as to his thriving political career was his closeness to Sonia Gandhi. Since it is amply clear that it was not PM Manmohan Singh, but in fact, Sonia Gandhi who was at the helm of the government during UPA tenure, appointing Bansal in key cabinet positions was undoubtedly her decision.
The post of treasurer, and in other words, replacing Ahmed Patel, is a crucial one for the Congress, and it is worth noting how Sonia Gandhi subtly and swiftly passed over all of Rahul Gandhi’s aides to appoint that of her own. Rahul Gandhi is expected to take the party mantel from Sonia Gandhi early next year, as the party plans to hold elections next January to find a new president. In such a situation, it would have been prudent for Rahul Gandhi to choose a successor to Ahmed Patel, who can be groomed to become his political aid and right-hand man. But Sonia Gandhi’s clear refusal in allowing this to happen indicates how little trust she has in Rahul Gandhi’s capabilities to lead the party.
According to former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha, Rahul Gandhi is presently close to four people, Randeep Surjewala, Chief Congress Spokesperson, K.C. Venugopal, General Secretary (Organisation), Rajeev Satav, Rajya Sabha MP and Party In-Charge of Gujarat, and Manickam Tagore, MP and CWC Member.
However, Sonia Gandhi has ignored all of Rahul’s close aides and has selected one of her own choosing. This indicates Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to let go of the party reigns, even in the event of Rahul Gandhi being elected as party president. She wants to continue at the helm of affairs, subtly interfering and guiding matters that suit her own benefits and being involved in the know-how of things. This also indicates how little trust she has in Rahul Gandhi to lead the party.
Congress’ series of misfortunes under Rahul Gandhi is no secret. From the 2019 general elections to legislative assembly elections and by-polls, Congress’ performance has been dismal. In the aftermath of Bihar elections, in which the party suffered a miserable loss, not only RJD leaders, their pre-poll alliance, but also veteran leaders, including Kapil Sibal, from the Congress are blaming Rahul Gandhi.
RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari in a stinging remark had said, “Elections were in full swing here and Rahul Gandhi was having a picnic at Priyanka Ji’s house in Shimla. Is the party run like that? Allegations can be levelled that the manner in which Congress party is being run, it is benefitting BJP.”
It is said that mother knows best, and in Rahul Gandhi’s case, this is certainly so. Sonia Gandhi knows all about her son’s incompetence and inability to change Congress’ misfortunes. The party will require a complete restructuring to be able to challenge BJP’s popularity. Rahul Gandhi is certainly not the leader to do so and Sonia knows that.
Although she cannot change the party tradition of dynastic succession, what she can do keep the core power to herself, as has been her penchant since Manmohan Singh’s era. Appointing a close aide of hers in place of Ahmed Patel is another step of cementing her power in Congress affairs, long after she ceases to lead the party.