It is high time Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took the responsibility of the country’s oldest party. The burden has been on party president Sonia Gandhi for too long and her failing health calls for a quick decision from the party.
The Congress president has again fallen ill and has been admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi on Tuesday. She's reportedly suffering from viral fever.
“Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been admitted to hospital on account of viral fever. She will be in hospital for two days,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Tuesday.
During the last Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on 7 November, two incidents happened.
One, the members of the party’s top most decision-making body had unanimously urged Rahul to assume the charge of party chief. Second, Sonia skipped the meeting as she was unwell and in her absence Rahul chaired the meeting for the first time.
Though no final decision was taken by Rahul on his elevation, it became loud and clear that the party has been looking for an alternative to Sonia given her poor health condition. And, for Congress, Rahul was the best choice.
For all practical purposes, most of the decisions are taken by Rahul and his office. However, Sonia puts the stamp of approval.
“All important decisions are taken by Rahul and his office. The Congress president isn’t involved in day-to-day issues, except the most important ones. Rahul also consults her on crucial issues before taking a decision. That’s why at the CWC meeting, we urged him to take charge of party chief. Soniaji’s failing health is a matter of great concern for all of us,” a senior party leader and CWC member said on condition of anonymity.
Sonia besides having a strong brand equity, commands great respect across party lines and continues to be the biggest crowd-puller for the Congress party. However, the fact can’t be ignored that the 69-year-old Congress chief has been suffering due to her poor health for quite some time and frequently falling ill, which has become a matter of great concern for the Congress party.
Within a period of three months, Sonia has been hospitalised twice. The first was in August, when she called off her much-publicised road show in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi after she had high fever and dehydration. She was immediately admitted to the Army Research and Referral Hospital and later shifted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Her absence within the party was felt acutely in August 2011, when she underwent a major surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York. She was out of the political arena for quite some time.
Congress then had to set up a four-member committee comprising Rahul, AK Antony, Ahmed Patel and Janardan Dwivedi to look after the organisational affairs in her absence.
Now, after five years, it’s the members of the same team, who have pushed for Rahul’s elevation as party president. However, it’s on hold and party workers are waiting eagerly to hear something positive from the vice-president.
Due to poor health, Sonia has been unable to attend the ongoing Parliament Winter Session. “Rahul is the star campaigner for the party and has a strong connect with the youth. He’s also representing Congress in Parliament in the absence of party chief. Though Soniaji’s contribution in the revival of Congress in 2004 and as UPA chairperson can’t be matched, it’s high time Rahul took the mantle from her,” a senior Congress MP said.
Whenever it comes to talking anything about Sonia, the party becomes extremely cautious and guarded, fearing that any statement may affect her brand image and the opponents might create unwanted controversy. An official statement from the party is all that people get to know about Sonia.