New Delhi: The Congress high command is facing a fresh crisis with several young dynasts leaving the party or planning to do so in the near future. The supreme irony is that Mahila Congress chief, Sushmita Dev, daughter of former Union Minister Santosh Mohan Dev, who resigned from the primary membership to join the Trinamool Congress, was, like Jitin Prasada and Jyotiraditya Scindia before her, a part of Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle.
Jyotiraditya and Jitin, sons of Madhavrao Scindia and Jitendra Prasada, respectively, left the Congress for greener pastures in the Bharatiya Janata Party, and there are indications that Anant Gadgil, son of former Congress spokesman and senior leader, V.N. Gadgil too may shift loyalties. Sachin Pilot, who had virtually clinched a deal with the BJP after revolting against Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, is waiting patiently for promises made to him to be fulfilled.
Sensing that younger leaders are getting disillusioned with the functioning of the party, Rahul and interim president, Sonia Gandhi, have decided to bring in Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into the picture. Priyanka’s success in getting Navjot Singh Sidhu as the Punjab Pradesh Congress chief is being cited as a reason for her being drafted for the job. However, it is also common knowledge that the siblings on many issues do not see eye to eye, which could pose further problems instead of solving them.
Sushmita is understood to have left the party since she felt badly let down over the manner in which tickets were distributed for the Assembly elections in Assam. Most of the seats in the Muslim dominated areas were given to the party ally and in the remaining seats, her nominees were ignored. She came to New Delhi to acquaint Rahul Gandhi with the issues that she was facing.
Sources said that she went to receive Rahul at the airport on his arrival from Srinagar but the former Congress president questioned her presence there and asked her to seek time from his office. She waited for three days but Rahul’s office never responded. It was at this juncture that she decided to quit.
Sources said that even Sandeep Dikshit is unhappy at not being granted an appointment with Rahul Gandhi for more than one year. In fact, Rahul had wished Sandeep on his birthday last year and it was at that time when former Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit’s son sought time to meet him for a friendly conversation. He never got the time.
Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal is also getting disgruntled. If sources are to be believed, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has approached Kuldeep asking him to be their face in Haryana, since they wish to project a non-Jat. However, this offer would stand only if Kuldeep were to leave the Congress now. Bishnoi has sought time from the AAP to consider the matter.
Sources said that before leaving for the United States (she was expected back on Saturday), Priyanka had one-on-one meetings with Deependra Singh Hooda, Rajya Sabha MP and son of Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Chief Minister of Haryana, Sachin Pilot and Karti Chidambaram, son of erstwhile Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram.
The Hoodas have been putting pressure on the party leadership to ease out Kumari Selja as the Haryana PCC boss and her continuation for the position, despite her proximity to Sonia Gandhi, has become untenable. Sources said that Deependra Hooda was apparently assured by Priyanka that he would be made the PCC president next year and Selja would be given a Rajya Sabha berth when it comes up. The proposal had Selja’s consent and is probably going to be carried forward.
However, the Hoodas also want that Deependra should be projected as the Chief Ministerial face, to which Randeep Surjewala, a close aide of Rahul, is putting up resistance.
Sachin Pilot was informed that since his relations with the Chief Minister in Rajasthan were unlikely to improve, giving him the state PCC chief’s office as demanded by him, made little sense. He has not been included in the ministry as despite assurances, no reshuffle has taken place there. However, he would be adjusted as a general secretary in the AICC and assigned specific tasks by the interim president is what has been conveyed to him in nebulous terms.
Karti Chidambaram was made aware of the fact that the entire Tamil Nadu Congress was opposed to him and his father and thus it would not be an easy task to grant him the PCC presidentship. However, appropriate steps would be taken to ensure that he is satisfied with whatever decision the high command takes.
Similarly, some other disgruntled younger leaders are likely to meet Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, whose organizational profile may get larger once she is back in action. However, in order to enable her to carry out the new task, she may have to give up her role as the general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh where Assembly elections are due next year. Many senior leaders are of the view that it could be a pretext to withdraw her from the firing line in UP, where the Congress is facing imminent rout.
Sources said that there is a distinct proposal under consideration of reorganizing the AICC on the Punjab model, where four working presidents were appointed to assist Sidhu. It is another matter that the Punjab PCC chief is busy making his own appointments, which undoubtedly have the support of the high command.
It is being said that the AICC would also have four working presidents, one for each region who would assist the Congress president in day-to-day affairs. This proposal had come up earlier as well but at that time was shot down since it was not considered feasible.
The Congress high command is also preparing itself for the difficult task of retaining the leadership of the Opposition parties. Rahul’s attempts to project himself did not cut ice and there is a clear attempt now to have a parallel show of strength with Sonia as the pivot in order to neutralize the signals being sent out by both Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar to the political class. The non Congress Oppostion has conveyed in strongest terms to the Congress leadership that their agenda would not be controlled by the likes of Prashant Kishor and it was to drive home this point that so many leaders gathered at Kapil Sibal’s house for dinner.
The last word on the Congress is yet to be heard.