The regressive move of the Congress Working Committee in reappointing Sonia Gandhi as the party president is clearly indicative of the fact that Rahul Gandhi has been both outstripped and outwitted by the powerful Syndicate that exercises complete control over the organisation. Notwithstanding the orchestrated consensus that urged Rahul to withdraw his resignation, the party’s highest decision making body has not followed his advice of not nominating a Gandhi to the coveted position.
In other words, it has virtually admitted that the former president was a failure who was unable to pull the Congress out of the mess it was in. Paradoxically, the Congress had secured eight more seats in the Parliamentary polls in 2019 than what it had in 2014 when Sonia Gandhi was heading it.
What occurred at the CWC meeting, held ten days before Rajiv Gandhi’s 75th birth anniversary, revealed how power politics unfolded within the 134-year-old party, where the Syndicate, comprising Sonia Gandhi’s core team, managed to scuttle various moves to find a capable successor to Rahul. At another level, the deliberations also brought out the divisions within the Gandhi family, since the sole person who could have been acceptable, despite her limitations, was Priyanka. It was evident that both mother and son did not want her in the reckoning, and therefore due to this disinclination, the Syndicate stepped in, playing its trump card. The political interpretation of the final outcome is that the coterie is back and shall continue to call the shots. Younger leaders, who were hopeful that some changes may take place, were left disappointed and could not oppose the candidacy of the UPA chairperson, who was too willing to repossess her position as the chief of the Congress family. It, however, is another matter that if the Congress is in a dismal state today, it is only because of Sonia Gandhi and her team, which literally destroyed the party, both ideologically and structurally. The party’s stand on the Kashmir developments has Sonia Gandhi’s stamp, given that during her nearly 20 years in office, the Congress was perceived to be pro-minorities and thus was unable to secure the majority community’s votes, which mostly gravitated towards the BJP. Their Kashmir stance has put the Congress closer to the position taken by Pakistan, since its top leaders have been unable to keep the focus on the constitutionality of the government initiative, having strayed into other domains. In fact, its Kashmir policy has opened the floodgates for leaders to exit from the Congress for greener pastures, particularly because there is no ideological adhesive that can hold them back.
The farcical script that played out at the meeting was in complete contrast to what would have ensued, had Indira Gandhi been at the helm of affairs. In 1969, fighting with her back to the wall, against the well-entrenched senior leaders, the former Prime Minister was determined to accept their challenge. Despite having to take on her one-time mentor K. Kamaraj, besides S. Nijalangappa, S.K. Patil, Morarji Desai, Atulya Ghosh, Ram Subhag Singh and so many others, Indira fielded V.V. Giri opposing the formidable N. Sanjiva Reddy, who was the party’s official choice. Indira emerged victorious, aided and guided by astute and perceptive leaders like D.P. Mishra and Jagjivan Ram. It was at this juncture that she decided to nationalise banks and go in for abolition of the privy purses, two immensely popular moves that propelled her to both wider and wholesome acceptance.
The 1971 polls saw the Syndicate aligning with the Jana Sangh, Swantantra Party and the Socialists, who were individually as well as collectively vanquished by Indira Gandhi. However, in the past two decades those who presided over the Congress did so because they claimed to be inheritors of Indira’s legacy, but their actions were inconsistent with her manner of thinking. The party was derailed from its moorings, and the new and bogus Syndicate, comprising Sonia Gandhi’s trusted people came into being. It was this group which proved to be the greatest impediment for Rahul, and was responsible for both tarnishing his image and undermining his authority.
Tactically and strategically, this clique backed Priyanka for her to occupy a significant position, thereby gradually using her popularity amongst the cadres to contain Rahul, while concurrently making deals with important functionaries of the ruling dispensation. Priyanka too has turned out to be a rather huge letdown for a number of people, who initially supported her, due to her uncalled for outbursts against workers and her erratic political behaviour. It may sound strange, but within the Congress, there today are a number of people who believe that the present set of Gandhis have established themselves to be undeserving recipients of Indira’s legacy, which arguably should have, perhaps, gone to the other set of Gandhis. The reference is to Feroze Varun Gandhi, whose late father, Sanjay Gandhi, was the one who assisted his mother Indira to rebuild the party post the second split in 1978. In fact, it were people selected by Sanjay who continued to play a stellar role in the functioning of the party, and some of them continue to remain an integral part of the present Syndicate.
The question that arises: since the party has been unable to find a younger leader to lead them and is fixated on allowing the Gandhis to run the show, should they not ponder over the other Gandhi? Should his political exile not come to an end, thereby entitling him to his grandmother’s legacy? Between us.