Initially, as reported by ET, the meeting was to take place on Saturday but had to be rescheduled in the backdrop of concerns being flagged off by influential party leaders amid uncertainty over Sonia Gandhi’s continuation in office.
These leaders have begun to feel that the lack of clarity at the top has had a “numbing effect” on the organisation besides making it easier for the Narendra Modi government in dealing with the Opposition. Also, any serious effort on how to re-invent the party after the 2019 debacle has taken a backseat.
These leaders, ET has gathered, have conveyed their concerns to Sonia Gandhi and stressed on the urgency for remedial action. It’s believed some have even penned their views to her.
Despite their attachment to Sonia Gandhi, these leaders feel that her interim presidency, after Rahul Gandhi quit the post, has not helped the Congress’s cause leading to confusion in the decision-making process. Despite Rahul’s assertion that a non-Gandhi must lead the party, his mother’s return as an in-terim arrangement signaled that he was, in reality, not prepared to accept someone outside the family as party head.
Instead, insiders said, the message went out that she was holding fort for only for her son to return. Now, the worry among senior leaders is that this extended status of the party being without a proper president may provide an opening for the Election Commission to wade in by making a case of violation of its norms for parties.
Many Congress leaders feel that the lack of clarity at the top has had a “numbing effect” on the organisation.
IN-AND-OUT RAHUL GANDHI
There’s a growing view that those loyal to Rahul Gandhi are probably playing for a large-scale emotional appeal from the party for his return, just like it happened when Sonia Gandhi turned down the PM’s post in 2004. “It’s obvious Rahul Gandhi is open to coming back, otherwise his people will not to be repeatedly making this appeal.
Now they probably want many others to join in the schorus,” quipped a party leader. Sonia Gandhi’s interim arrangement also led to the leadership diluting its established protocol and delegating to Rahul, who is now technically one of the CWC members, all duties and powers otherwise vested in the party president.
As a result, Rahul alone is projected the party’s pan-India campaigner, he alone can take meetings involving various states and play peacemaker in Rajasthan; or for that matter oversee poll preparations in Bihar. All this gives Rahul all the power and authority within the Congress.
“The problem is he wants to be the de facto leader, enjoying all power and no accountability. What we are saying, you may very well take over as party chief, but by being a unifying, responsible and politically matured leader by learning from past mistakes,” said a CWC member.
VICIOUS INTERNAL DIVIDE
The Congress leadership is today a divided lot. If many senior Congress leaders have doubts on Rahul’s ability to script a comeback against Modi, most of his team members remain hostile to the seniors.
While some among Team Rahul have come up through the ranks, and thus, have justifiable aspirations within the party, most others are perceived as green horns enjoying Rahul’s patronage. On the other hand, many seniors are feeling belligerent, wounded, even humiliated, though silent in deference to Sonia Gandhi. As time is fast running out for them and the party, on test are the credentials of the first family as time-tested unifiers of the Congress leadership.