The Congress president believes that Priyanka’s entry in Parliament would undermine Rahul’s overall position since most Congress leaders would prefer her in the leadership role instead of her brother.
New Delhi: Interim Congress president, Sonia Gandhi appears to have rather strong reservations regarding her daughter and AICC general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s entry into the Rajya Sabha. The election process for the Rajya Sabha commences next week, and the Congress, on its present strength, can readily obtain, from various states, at least 10 seats. However, it is more or less clear that Priyanka would not be making her Parliamentary debut, since on Saturday night, Sonia Gandhi was likely to have travelled abroad, and possibly may have cleared the final list without her name finding any mention.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath is understood to have offered Priyanka a safe berth to the Upper House out of the two seats that the Congress can comfortably win from this region. However, Sonia Gandhi was not too enthusiastic about the proposal, and has conveyed her hesitation in accommodating Priyanka to both her and the MP leaders.
The Congress president believes that Priyanka’s entry in Parliament would undermine Rahul’s overall position since most Congress leaders would prefer her in the leadership role instead of her brother. According to Congress sources, during the last two days, Sonia and Priyanka had a detailed discussion on the subject, and the former appears to have overruled her daughter’s Rajya Sabha induction.
Sources further stated that Priyanka made a strong appeal to her mother to reconsider her decision. She informed her that she was being made a sacrificial goat by assigning her the toughest state of Uttar Pradesh, where the outcome in 2022 Assembly polls was hardly expected to tilt in the favour of the Congress; she, therefore, should at least be made a member of the Rajya Sabha. This would also ensure that she would have an official accommodation in the capital. Her present residence has been allotted to her due to security considerations. It would not be surprising if the government cancels the allotment as it has already withdrawn the SPG cover to the Gandhis.
Priyanka is also understood to have approached some senior leaders close to her to present her case in a positive light to the party chief. Top Congress functionaries were reluctant to raise the issue with Sonia Gandhi, fearing that she may reprimand them for unnecessarily creating a divide within the family. Rahul Gandhi, who was out of the country—but is likely to be back soon—may also have a say in the final Rajya Sabha selection.
It is also being said that there were a large number of claimants for the Rajya Sabha, among them many of whom who had lost last year’s Parliamentary polls. In this context, within the party there is a strong feeling that the defeated candidates of Lok Sabha should not be considered for the Council of States. This was the thumb rule when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, and Congress president, and it continued to be honoured even during P.V. Narasimha Rao’s tenure.
If once again this unwritten rule is invoked, senior leaders such as Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kumari Selja, Shakti Singh Gohil, R.P.N. Singh, Deependra Hooda, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Randeep Singh Surjewala would be out of the contention. Digvijaya Singh and Scindia are claimants from Madhya Pradesh, and R.P.N. Singh and Surjewala are eyeing Chhattisgarh, which can also send two members on the current numerical might of the party. Motilal Vohra, the senior most living and active Congress functionary, too is hopeful of another term from Chhattisgarh.
Gohil is an aspirant from Gujarat—where he, along with Bharat Singh Solanki, is making a strong pitch for two of the Rajya Sabha berths. Shinde has already been sounded that he was not in the shortlist, and the Maharashtra seat could go to either Mukul Wasnik or Rajni Patil. Rajiv Satav, who is close to Rahul Gandhi, apparently has indicated that he would prefer being an MLC from the state rather than an MP. The reasoning possibly could be that he might want to become a minister in the state. Wasnik is also in contention from Rajasthan where he enjoys very cordial relations with Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot. K.K. Venugopal, Rahul’s most trusted aide, is likely to get the other berth from there or may enter Parlaiment from Chhattisgarh. Sam Pitroda’s name is also doing the rounds, but so far he has shown his reluctance in accepting parliamentary responsibility.
Kumari Selja is self-assured of receiving yet another term from Haryana, despite the fact that there is pressure on the high command to bring in Deependra Hooda. However, both would find themselves sidelined, in case the rule pertaining to defeated Lok Sabha candidates not getting a Rajya Sabha ticket is implemented.
There is one vacant seat from Karnataka as well, for which Mallikarjun Kharge, B.K. Hari Prasad and Rajiv Gowda are actively lobbying. Sonia is expected to consult Rahul before she takes a final call since, perhaps, the elections in the state are due only in June.
There is utter confusion within the Congress ranks and for the first time, even some senior functionaries have started criticising the Gandhis in private conversations. It is said that former Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram has assumed a larger role, though his colleagues have nicknamed him “Lungi” and have created several jokes around this. During the recent protests against the Delhi violence, the Congress sought time from President Ram Nath Kovind but an immediate appointment was not granted. Chidambaram is said to have told Sonia Gandhi that the memorandum should be pasted outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan. However, former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh overruled the suggestion, emphatically expressing that it would be a breach of propriety. His point of view was paid heed to, and the following day, the party leaders met the President demanding the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah.