Rahul takes charge of party, but it’s status quo for now
The Gandhi scion’s real responsibility has just begun. His stint at the helm may be a temporary one but he will be under serious scrutiny from now.
Rahul Gandhi will be leading the Congress in the absence of his mother and party president, Sonia Gandhi, who is hospitalised in the US. It’s a big moment both in the history of the Gandhi family as well as the party.
It’s not a big surprise though.
Not even a small one really!
Rahul was the clear number 2 in the party ever since he stepped out in the public domain.
The first time he did so was in the first week of January 2004 when accompanied by sister Priyanka he spent a few days in Amethi and announced his intention to contest elections from there.
Priyanka was the more public and visible face amongst the two till then. But after introducing Rahul to the people of the constituency as well as Congress workers in the family pocket borough, Priyanka consciously began to withdraw from the limelight and it soon became clear that Rahul will be the next Gandhi to lead the party whenever Sonia decides to hang her boots.
Of course, this is no coronation of Rahul.
One would hope for his sake that he formally takes over in happier times. But so often in the past a Gandhi had to take over the mantle of leadership in difficult, even tragic circumstances.
For the last seven years thus he has been the uncrowned prince, a clear number two with no challenger, competitor and pretender to the Congress throne in sight. The problem with Rahul Gandhi really has not been any lack of power and opportunity for him. His problem has been his unwillingness to shoulder responsibility and exercise power till he was ready and prepared in his own wisdom.
Now with Sonia out of action, Rahul suddenly finds himself in a position where he can no longer avoid responsibility. He will have to take decisions and exercise power. Whatever the length of time that Sonia will be out of action, Rahul would no longer have the luxury of giving his opinion – which quite often became the final word even in the past—without being responsible about the outcome and consequences of his call.
Now the buck would stop with Rahul.
Every action of his will be judged, analysed and dissected minutely.
Also, it will not be possible to put the genie back into the bottle. The unleashing or uncorking of the Rahul phenomenon will now be very difficult to reverse. Even when mother and the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, is back.
It’s quite unthinkable even to conceive that Rahul will ever go back to just being general secretary in-charge of Youth Congress and NSUI. The decisions he will take – some willingly and others which will be thrust upon him—will ensure that the genie never goes back into the secure confines of a regulated, predictable bottle again.
So the next big question as a new generation begins to gain control of the party – even if it is a slow and gradual process—is the one of his team.
Who will be Rahul’s men? And women!
The four-member presidium that will take care of the party matters in the absence of Sonia are Ahmad Patel, Mrs Gandhi’s long time confidante and political secretary, Janardan Dwivedi, party general secretary in-charge of organisation, and Defence Minister, AK Antony, a long time favourite of Mrs Gandhi both on the yardstick of loyalty as well as probity in public life. The fourth person on this panel of course is Rahul Gandhi.
It clearly is a status quoist panel.
Patel, Antony and Dwivedi may all become part of Rahul’s core team eventually but essentially they are Sonia’s hand-picked lieutenants. There was no way this panel –at this time—could have had any other names. The only surprise omission is that of the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee. But maybe he has been left out because his political skills will be required more in Parliament at this time when the monsoon session is underway.
Just imagine the kind of political hurricane that would have been unleashed if Ahmad Patel’s name was missing from this panel.
Or if Digvijay Singh’s name was included!
These are critical times for the Congress. The message the party wants to send out is of continuity and stability; the two central themes the Congress wishes to project in any circumstance. Surely this was no occasion to be cavalier and adventurous. The approach of the party is one of all hands on the deck and a steady, experienced one on the wheel!
But let nobody be fooled. The process of change has begun. It is irreversible and it will only gather momentum in the coming times.
Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply
Puducherry political crisis: BJP says won't form govt at this stage; Congress says saffron party 'kills democracy again'
The collapse of the V Narayanasamy-led government in Puducherry led to a war of words over Rahul Gandhi's leadership of the Congress party and the BJP's 'corrupt politics'
After concluding his visits to Kerala and Puducherry, Rahul, at a rally in Kanyakumari, said that 'only a person who truly represents the Tamil people can be a chief minister of Tamil Nadu'
Tamil Nadu Assembly polls: State should oust K Palaniswami govt and 'keep out BJP', says Rahul Gandhi
The Congress leader, who was on a three-day tour of Tamil Nadu, participated in multiple events in Kanyakumari district ahead of the 6 April Assembly polls