Party at sixes and sevens, with leadership indecisive on internal issues.


New Delhi: With the Congress passing through the toughest time ever, former party president Rahul Gandhi and AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are unable to handle the situation.

The Punjab battle and the Gandhis’ clandestine meeting with political strategist Prashant Kishor have complicated the matter all the more. Gandhis’ meeting with Kishor has raised many eyebrows in the Congress, with leaders expressing surprise over the development. The Punjab development has exposed the lack of political experience of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Senior party leader Kamal Nath had to intervene in the Punjab issue. The big question is how the Gandhi family will deal with challenges in various other states. Infighting is rampant in Congress units of poll-bound states such as Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Haryana is also posing a problem. Vivek Bansal has been unable to handle Haryana.

Congress affairs in Rajasthan are well-known. Ajay Maken, who was made in charge of the state party a year ago, could not end the tussle in the party. He has not yet made a team at district and block levels. All the in-charges appointed by Rahul Gandhi have proved to be ineffective. The Congress leadership’s habit of delaying decisions has added to the problems. The Punjab crisis began the day Navjot Singh Sidhu joined Congress. The party leadership did not take timely action to contain the problem. The party started efforts to fix the problem only now when the elections are due early next year. Sonia Gandhi set up a three-member panel for Punjab, but Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s intervention spoiled everything, with the result that the deadlock became a long drawn out affair in the state.

Now Kamal Nath had to intervene. He is said to have suggested the Gandhis not to displease Captain Amarinder Singh for someone who has come from another party. According to sources, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were understandably adamant on backing Sidhu.

The Punjab situation reminds party leaders of what happened in Maharashtra where Nana Patole, who defected from BJP and joined Congress, was made state president ignoring the advice of seniors. Now, Patole embarrasses the party leadership every now and then, making unfavourable statements for the MVA government in Maharashtra. When Ahmed Patel was alive, the internal party matters used to be settled secretly. But now, all the party matters come out in the public domain. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is trying to help Rahul Gandhi, but her lack of experience spoils things.

The strategy of both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is already under question after Congress’ defeat in Kerala and its poor performance in other states which went to polls some time back. After the Gandhis’ meeting with Kishor, several questions were raised. Media was agog with rumour that Kishor is joining Congress. Some say the story was planted in the media. However, both the old guards and the young leaders were not happy with this development. A big section does not already like Kishor. Secondly, the message that went out was that Kishor will guide the Congress as there is a dearth of capable leaders in the party. This dented Congress’ image, but Kishor managed to gain publicity. Kishor is trying to form a front against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also wants to take control of the front if it comes into being. He is also said to be finalising even prime ministerial and presidential candidates.

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar somehow managed to brush aside rumours after his meeting with Kishor. At one point of time in the past, CPI-M leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet used to take initiative to form such fronts. However, his fronts did not last long. After Bengal’s success, Kishor wants to push himself in the national political arena. He knows that it is not possible without Congress. The strategy regarding who will be UPA chairperson is also being finalised. The grand old party does not want the leadership of the UPA to go to the leader of any other party.

Meanwhile, Congress does not seem to learn its lessons from Kerala. After the death of Rajiv Satav, nobody has been made in-charge of Gujarat as of now. This, despite the fact that elections will be held in Gujarat next year. Jitin Prasad, who was in charge of Bengal, has already moved to BJP. Most of the AICC departments are also lying vacant. Sources say that Gandhi family may take some key decisions aimed at improving the situation within the party in the future. Sonia Gandhi may convene a CWC meet before a final call on UPA chairmanship. A big decision about UP is likely. Serious thinking is underway in the party to project Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the Congress face in Uttar Pradesh.