The Congress’ old guard will have an important role in the 2019 general elections as party president Rahul Gandhi has been told by his mother and predecessor Sonia Gandhi in “very clear terms” not to “upset” them, reliable sources told The Sunday Guardian. The sources added that Sonia Gandhi has specifically instructed Rahul to work out compromise formulas between veterans and their rival younger leaders in different state units. She herself is engaged in this exercise very actively from behind the curtains, sources confirmed.

“Rahul ji has been clearly told by Sonia Gandhi that his plans of overhauling the party with young faces must be totally postponed till the Congress returns to power. She has told Rahulji that the old guard will play an important role in stitching up alliances for the party before 2019, and, hence, they must be kept in ‘good humour’. Sonia Gandhi is apprehensive that Rahulji’s raw dealing with them might incite the older leaders to spoil Congress’ alliance talks,” a source aware of the developments told this newspaper.

The source said it was Sonia Gandhi who prevailed over her son to get back most of the older leaders in the party’s newly announced steering committee. “She wants to send out a message to the old guard that their position will be respected, while at the same time getting them to pledge their solidarity to Rahulji,” the source said.

Rahul Gandhi on 17 February had dissolved the Congress’ central working committee, and formed a 34-member steering committee that would work for the upcoming Congress plenary session, beginning 16 March.  The Steering Committee includes party leaders A.K. Antony, Ambika Soni, Ashok Gehlot, P. Chidambaram, Oscar Fernandes, Anand Sharma, C.P. Joshi, Digvijaya Singh, Kamal Nath, Mallikarjun Kharge, Motilal Vora among others.

Sources said that, as is the case in the steering committee, Sonia loyalists will find a place in the new CWC that will be announced during or after the plenary session. “The plenary session will discuss the Congress strategy for next year’s election and it is all but likely that the old guard will be given important responsibilities. Sonia ji never radically transformed the Congress structure, she believed in status quo. At least till 2019, she has asked Rahul ji to continue that policy,” the sources said.

Sources said that Rahul has been advised to “immediately” settle infightings in states that the Congress hopes to win, by taking the seniors into confidence. 

“In Madhya Pradesh, Rahulji has tried to appease a disgruntled Digvijays Singh by offering him a position in the steering committee,” a source cited an example. 

In Rajasthan, Rahul has similarly decided that Ashok Gehlot will be the Chief Minister’s face and in Delhi, he got Ajay Maken to patch up with Sheila Dikshit. Recently, the two leaders were seen hobnobbing at a public function and Dikshit even gave her “blessings” to Maken.