The talk of Rahul Gandhi succeeding his mother Sonia Gandhi as Congress president has surfaced yet again. The new deadline suggested is October 2017 when the Grand Old Party, as per its schedule, will be completing its organisational elections, state and national.
It should be clarified at the outset that AK Antony, a close confidante of the Gandhi-Nehru family and Congress' Central Working Committee (CWC) member, has gone on the record, saying that there was no connection between completion of organisational polls and Rahul Gandhi's potential elevation to post of Congress president. As per the party's constitution, the CWC could name its party president at a time of its choosing.
The organisational elections have to be completed before the end of 2017. This was to be done by December 2016, but last year the party had sought a one-year extension from the Election Commission.
The announcement of organisational poll schedule has given rise to fresh speculation around Rahul getting ready to take the reins from his mother. However, these rumours have been doing rounds since 2011, when news broke that Sonia had gone abroad for treatment of an undisclosed illness. A number of family loyalists within the party would routinely demand Rahul's elevation, and he, in turn, would make them wait.
Year after year, the media would bring up this issue, both to the Congress quarters and to political observers, even if it remained irrelevant in the minds of the public. All these years, Congress strategists were looking for the right moment to anoint Rahul — thus kicking off his presidency on a high note — but unfortunately for the Congress, things have gone from bad to worse.
Sonia has been Congress president for a record 19 years — since 1998 — a distinction which even her famed elders Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi couldn't achieve.
But this time around, Rahul Gandhi could be an idea for the Congress whose time has finally come to officially hold the top slot.
In November, a CWC meeting chaired by Rahul Gandhi in absence of Sonia Gandhi, "strongly" demanded and unanimously passed a resolution, moved by Manmohan Singh and seconded by AK Antony, that in keeping with "heightened desires" of thousands of Congress workers, he should be made party president. Incidentally, it was for the first time that the party not just officially talked about Rahul's anointment as president but also passed a resolution to that effect.
Technically, Rahul should have been named Congress president after passage of CWC resolution but since Sonia, the incumbent party chief, was not present, the resolution couldn't come into effect until she gave her assent for her son to succeed her. The matter has been pending with Sonia ever since.
Since then, three things have changed:
1. Rahul has begun reading the Bhagwad Gita and Upanishads. Although he is reading 2,000-year-old ancient Indian scriptures to take on the mighty political challenge of the RSS and BJP, the fact remains that these scriptures stress on karma of ruler or the leader, who may or may not be a warrior.
After Rahul finishes reading the scriptures, he might be convinced that he should honour the sentiments of his party leaders: That he take up his rightful place at the head of the party, which is his by birth.
2. Congress leaders and workers have now internalised defeat as natural and victory as the exception. Rahul's track record of leading the party to successive defeats in parliamentary, Assembly, municipal and panchayat elections don't disturb them anymore. Last year, Congress lost power in Assam and Kerala, and fared poorly in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. This year, the party suffered humiliating defeats in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, and inexplicably allowed the BJP to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Goa and Manipur.
For Rahul Gandhi, it seems nothing succeeds like lack of success. With each Congress defeat, the demand for Rahul's elevation has gained momentum.
Senior party leader PL Punia, a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh who is considered close to Rahul, told media in Patna that organisational elections would be completed soon and would culminate in electing Rahul as party president. "We are preparing for internal elections. Party workers want to see Rahul in a bigger role. Once organisational elections are held in the states, Rahul will be elected president of the party. It all will happen by the end of the year.”
3. Sonia is not in best of health. In fact, she has curtailed all her public appearances. She did not go to Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur, all of which went to the polls three months ago. She did not hold even a single public rally or a workers meet in any of these states. She did not go to Chennai to attend aging DMK chief M Karunanidhi's birthday celebrations, which was attended by most Opposition leaders. Rahul represented Congress in her stead.
Though Sonia recently had some one-on-one meetings with Opposition leaders and even held a luncheon for them at the Parliament House library to give a boost to Opposition unity and field a common opposition candidate to take on ruling BJP-led NDA candidate in upcoming presidential election on 17 July, she isn't as active as she used to be. The ruling NDA has already secured 55 percent votes in presidential election and the Opposition candidate is likely headed for defeat.
Mother Sonia, as Punia described her, may soon handover the baton to son Rahul towards the end of the year. But there's a catch — Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat will go to the polls by end of the year — in all likelihood, Congress will lose those elections.
Would Rahul like to elevate himself to the top post when the party mood is one of all around dejection? No one knows the answer.
But Rahul is reading the Gita. Maybe he'll find an answer there.
Updated Date: Jun 07, 2017 19:43:45 IST