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A Breakaway From The Past? Election Of A Non-Gandhi As Congress President Evokes Several Questions    

While former Congress leader Ashwini Kumar to party veterans like P Chidambaram are batting for the importance of Gandhis in the grand old party, Sonia Gandhi is on her way to break the conventions.

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Sonia Gandhi Congratulating New Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge
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There is always someone to save the slip outs of Gandhis. Half an hour prior to declaration of the Congress presidential poll results, when Rahul Gandhi ‘mistakenly’ said ‘ask Kharge Ji’, while talking about his probable new role in a new set-up, there had to be someone who steps in to safeguard him.  

This time, it was Jairam Ramesh. The general secretary-in-charge of communication later in the day tweeted that there have been ‘erroneous’ media reports regarding Gandhi’s declaration of Kharge as the president.  

Noting that the direction of the polls was clear far before the press meet began, he said, “there have been erroneous media reports that Rahul Gandhi announced Kharge-ji as Congress president during his press meet that began at Adoni at around 1pm. The fact is that the direction of voting was quite clear before the press meet began.

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Earlier, termed as a ‘remote control’ president by the opposition, Kharge tried to eliminate the tags of quintessential Gandhi-loyalist through the statement that he believes in ‘consensus’ and hence ‘will consult Gandhis’, the nature of allegations has hardly changed.  

Meanwhile, the emphasis of different former and current party leaders on the role of Sonia Gandhi in the ‘internal matters’ of the party makes the situation worse.  

‘Kharge was her undeclared choice’  

Former Union minister of law and justice, Ashwini Kumar yesterday after the results said that Sonia Gandhi will have her own position intact in the party. And in the matters of the internal issue, she will remain as the fulcrum, not due to compulsions but for the personal loyalties that the senior party leaders have toward the senior Gandhi.  

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The former Congress leader who was privy to the development within the Congress said: “That Kharge was her undeclared choice is indisputable notwithstanding vehement denials by the establishment to the contrary. Sonia Gandhi has once again demonstrated her astute political judgment in using elections to demonstrate the family's pre-eminence in the party established over long years of exercise of political patronage.”  

Lauding Tharoor for his efforts to take up the challenge, Kumar added, “the election process is a victory for him. He invested his energy in making a political statement by walking the talk. He has clearly outshone most of his once-upon-a-time colleagues in the G-23 grouping and has positioned himself as a challenger.”  

Referring to Tharoor’s allegations that it was not a level-playing game he said that the expectation of Tharoor to have an equal position in a 'David versus Goliath' game was not right. However, he thinks that more than 1000 votes cast in his favour speaks a lot about the national prominence Tharoor has gained in between.  

Kumar also noted the importance of the family’s support to understand the alienation the party has been through in recent years.  

Since, the emergence of Kharge as the presidential candidate after Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot gave in to the wills of the high commands, the pitch against another dynastic game has been high. 

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‘Gandhis will not be diminished’  

While the delegates of Congress were voting for a change in the baton, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram told NDTV that one should not expect that the voices of Gandhis will be diminished.  

Emphasising on the importance of the new president, Chidambaram said, “Whoever wins - I know who will win but be that as it may - I hope 90 to 95% of the administrative, managerial decisions will be taken under the authority of the Congress president.” 

However, reminding all of the importance of the CWC where Gandhis have strong voice, the former Union finance minister added,  “of course, the major decisions would have to involve other leaders, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the parliamentary board, in which Gandhis will surely be represented. How can you imagine that the Gandhis, post today, will vanish from CWC, parliamentary board? The Gandhis will be there and they will have a view. The new Congress president must take into account their view."  

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Chidambaram, himself a former dissenter who left the party in 1997 to join the breakaway Tamil Maanila Congress and came back to the fold just before 2004 general elections however ruled out the ‘remote control’ jibe. “That is stock criticism. The allegation of the Gandhis remote controlling is an assumption. Let's assume the Gandhis will still have a great degree of influence at the national level. But when it percolates down, you think the Gandhis will be able to dictate once leaders are elected at district level through elections?” he asked.  

When Chidambaram to Ashwini Kumar were busy in echoing the relevance and importance of Gandhis, another script of non-convention was written by former party chief Sonia Gandhi.  

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A Breakaway from the Past?  

After being elected as the Congress president, the first thing that Mallikarjun Kharge planned was to visit 10 Japnath, the historic residence of Gandhis. However, Sonia Gandhi had a different plan in her mind.  

As per the reports of NDTV though Kharge tried to get an appointment for half an hour, he couldn’t have one. Within an hour Sonia Gandhi drove in to Kharge’s house with a bouquet to meet the new Congress president and congratulate him.  

Shifting the base from 10 Janpath to 10 Rajaji Road, where Kharge stays was not only metaphoric, it perhaps signalled a new era in Congress politics where the Gandhis will go to meet the leaders, not the other way.  

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Breaking the convention, what message did Sonia give? Is it going to be a new Congress with a Dalit leader at the helm or will it be a continuation of Gandhi-filled past?  

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