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Congress needs another Manmohan Singh to keep Rahul’s seat warm. But there’s no one around

Rahul Gandhi can resign as Congress chief and return in 2024 as PM candidate. But temporary renunciation could put family’s political relevance into question.

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Can the Nehru-Gandhi family find another Dr Manmohan Singh – this time to keep the seat warm for Rahul Gandhi in the party?

This question has been on everyone’s mind in political circles ever since Rahul Gandhi declared his intent to step down as Congress president following the party’s rout in the general elections. Except for a brief, choreographed drama outside his residence to protest against his decision and resolutions by some state units, Congressmen across the country have been quiet, albeit indifferent. It must be breaking the Congress’ first family’s heart, for sure.

Withdrawing his resignation offer would expose Gandhi to more barbs. But seeing it through could be fraught with risks in terms of his family’s political relevance.

Therefore, as Rahul Gandhi returns from his week-long jaunt abroad Monday, he must begin the process to find another Manmohan Singh, who would be the modern-day incarnate of Ramayana’s Bharat who ruled in the name of Ram’s paduka (sandal) until the elder brother returned from exile — or until the next Lok Sabha election, in Gandhi’s context.

But before we discuss the impossibility of this mission, it must be stated that the entire idea of someone outside the family replacing Rahul Gandhi as Congress president is impetuous, preposterous and as hair-brained as his so-called democratisation move through internal elections in the Youth Congress and the NSUI. The huge public dislike and resentment against the politics of entitlement as nurtured through dynasties is a reality, which explains the electoral losses of Rahul Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia and several other Congress dynasts.


Also read: Rahul can resign as Congress president, but Nehru-Gandhi dynasty never retires nor gives up


But there is another side to it — the victories of the BJP’s dynasts, be it Anurag Thakur, Poonam Mahajan, Dushyant Singh or Varun Gandhi. And if one credits the ‘Modi wave’ for their victories, what about Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party? The newly elected Andhra Pradesh chief minister is an essential dynast, who had quit the Congress because the party denied him inheritance of the chief ministerial throne after his father’s death. The YSR family is, in fact, the Andhra version of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Yet, Reddy got a massive mandate. Or the Badal couple’s victories in Punjab, even though their party, the Shiromani Akali Dal, was routed.

One may surmise that the public dislike for dynasts is not as much about their ancestry as about how they conduct themselves in public life. Jagan Reddy, for instance, was on the road for his padayatra for 14 months, living in villages and coming to see his family in Hyderabad only on weekends. The feudal ways of the Gandhis are legendary. But then a Mayawati with a very humble background can have more feudal streaks than say Capt. Amarinder Singh of the erstwhile royal family of Patiala. Rahul Gandhi might rue his party’s senior leaders seeking tickets for their sons, but could someone outside Kamal Nath’s family win Chhindwara for the Congress? So, the assumption about a non-dynast changing the Congress party’s image and fortune is simplistic. The Left and the liberals who once craved for Gandhi family’s indulgence are gunning for Rahul’s head today — not because of his political follies but because they hold him responsible for at least five more years of Modi’s rule and their own irrelevance.

One can’t ignore the fact that even in its humiliating defeat the Congress got the support of 12 crore voters, 2 crore more than those who supported it in the 2014 elections. Of course, the Congress president made many stupid mistakes. He was the only one in India — along with, perhaps, his data analytics head Praveen Chakravarty — who thought that a Nehru-Gandhi family member could convince voters of Narendra Modi’s involvement in a controversial defence deal. Think of the intellectual bankruptcy in a party that was promising a review of sedition laws and the AFSPA when the country was celebrating the Balakot air strikes.

There were myriads of other instances where Rahul Gandhi naively played into the BJP’s hands. In an ideal world, such mistakes would merit resignation. But the Congress being what it is, the Nehru-Gandhi family remains both its bane and the panacea. Can you imagine even one leader outside the family who would be acceptable to all Congressmen across the country?


Also read: 2019 elections ended ‘dynasties’ only of Congress, BJP’s are well and truly thriving


Congressmen have no misgivings. Resigning as the Congress president is not a supreme sacrifice. It would have no impact on Rahul Gandhi’s stature or lifestyle. He will remain an SPG protectee. He will continue to enjoy all the privileges he does now. And he can come back after three-four years to reclaim the party presidentship ahead of the 2024 elections. Or, if he still finds that responsibility cumbersome, he can just remain the party’s prime ministerial candidate. Come to think of it, in the intervening period, there would no public scrutiny of his conduct. He could choose to attend a Parliament session or just continue his prolonged stays at exotic locations. And whenever he would happen to visit India, he would enjoy all powers without responsibility. So, why wear the crown of thorns as Congress president and face the heat and dust to re-build the party when there are better options available?

That brings us back to the main question: Can the family find another Manmohan Singh? The name has many connotations: selflessness, lack of ambition, perpetual show of gratitude, acquiescence, forbearance and always-at-your-service attitude. Look around. There is only one Dr Manmohan Singh. And he is 86 years old now.

Not that there is any dearth of family loyalists. If there is another person Sonia Gandhi could trust her family’s future with, it is Ahmed Patel, her former political secretary who has looked after the family’s interests since Rajiv Gandhi’s time. But a party of ‘janeudhari Hindus’ may prefer other options.

There are not many available as the requirements or criteria set by the family for its regents — as fulfilled by Manmohan Singh in the Prime Minister’s Office and as expected from the next Congress president— are too difficult to match. There are many senior Congress leaders such as Siddaramaiah, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Digvijaya Singh, Amarinder Singh, even Sachin Pilot — and not to forget Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh — with proven record as leaders who can shake up the moribund organisational machinery at the grassroots.


Also read: Do young dynasts appeal to new gen voters or are they also practising outdated politics?


But Rahul Gandhi may not feel secure about handing over the organisation to ambitious leaders — even less so about the competent ones. Therefore, he has only three options.

First, he can pick up anyone of his cronies to keep the seat warm for him. But he may then also run the risk of driving the organisation further into the cesspool, blighting the prospects of his ascension to power.

Second, elevate his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the top position in the party. Although she didn’t have a glittering start to her political career as the general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, her elevation would bring a whiff of change and enthuse demoralised party workers. Rahul Gandhi can live with the uncertainties of what would happen if his sister transforms the organisation completely and emerges as a powerful leader. But, another Nehru-Gandhi family member at the helm could only accentuate prevailing cynicism about dynasts.

The third option for Rahul Gandhi is to withdraw his resignation offer, publicly accept his failures instead of seeking to shift the blame onto others, and get down to re-building the party organisation, starting with a new team of advisors who keep their ears to the ground.

In the given circumstance, the third option sounds reasonable but Rahul Gandhi is known to spring surprises.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Pappu will be there as Congress president and again ensure modi sarkar comes back in May 2024 too.
    Congress ,Sonia madam ki jaagir hai aur rahega

  2. How about a “Troika”, comprising: ‘Amarindar, Ahmed Patel and A K Antony” ? (like Amar, Akbar Anthony) . That way, Punjab can then be given away to Rahul and Priyanka’s favourite ‘Sidhu’.

  3. जब पहला मनमोहन जीवित है तो दूसरा कर्मों ढूंढते हो भाई !

  4. There was a Tag Heuer ad with the tag line, What are you made of ? I have always been respectful of Shri Rahul Gandhi, do not approve of the motivated campaign that has been run against him. However, he should look deep within and ask himself that question. His mother has been too indulgent. If she wanted him to inherit the family business, she should have ensured that he started working hard on it in 2004, when he was 33. 2014 was not his cross to bear alone, although the family was exercising real power and authority for a decade. 2019 is his albatross alone.

    • Agree on the last half. Disagree on the ‘motivated campaign’ bit. The ‘PAPPU’ tag came because of certain reasons, one of which was his dumb smile while standing next to his mother at a press briefing after Congress lost the 2014 elections. At 33 years of age we (you and I) were out of homes earning our bread, building careers by showing performance. Our career growth came NOT just because how our powerpoint presentations looked and how we projected numbers, but how we executed, implemented and managed. Many times it was our integrity, dependability and consistency that won us the promotion even when the performance was not exceptional. Modi may NOT have been exceptional in first term, but his integrity and intent were above question and therefore he got another FAIR opportunity. Respect the verdict. Hope for the best.

  5. Gandhi mukt Congress FOREVER is the only panacea for a healthy parliamentary democracy. But who will bell the cat.

  6. Rahul was forced into yake up politics by Sonia, this is a sort of addiction. He should exit and never come back. Let others in the party take the responsibility on their shoulder or perish. Let a capable person analyse the situation and patiently reorganize the party to work hard. BJP not that capable to fulfill the aspiration of the people
    and things will change within the next five years. Surgical strike that created nationalism will fade away if the economy fail to improve. There is none in this government with ideas so magical except false statistics and cover up of facts and reality.

  7. Shri Singh, are you the official apologist for the Gandhi family? The fact is Rahul Gandhi’s heart and soul is not in politics. Just by being active on Twitter doesn’t make you a smart politician, only certain people in the media believe this. You can’t be bi polar in politics, sometime on and then off but then I think this is a Gandhi family disease

  8. After two terms of UPA, Rahul with no responsible positions in either of them, not even a minister, just moved around like kid, supported all the inefficient elders and old so called stalwarts, literally made him more inefficient. We have seen this in the recently concluded election that his script writer Sam Pitroda has his won narrative and Rahul has no clue of what he was talking. Such approach will never make him credible alternative and people have this colonial mindset of just accept him as we do not have any other alternative. Such a large political party with 70+ years in politics, could not find an alternative outside of dynasty. That shows all.

  9. Most foolish of authors in print continuing to compare dynasts of BJP and Congress and find solace that since dynasts of BJP have won, time for Congress also will come back!! Dynasts of BJP don’t extend beyond a constituency but dynasty of Congress owns the party and has converted the mighty party into a private limited property!! Unless this big difference is not analysed, end solution offered for rejuvenation of cong will fail as usual. Any man as servile and Intellectually corrupt as MMS is unlikely to be made anywhere and hence such a search is a waste!!

  10. Instead of waiting for 5 years or looking for someone to keep his seat warm ,RAGA should choose a State where elections are going to take place in near future and he can make an attempt to revive his party and if successful,he should take the charge of the State as CM and perform some work with the help of his team .Along with same he can continue with his efforts to revive party in other States with help of leaders of those States ..This. can be one of the additional options for him in addition to 3 options mentioned in the article.

  11. The wait of 5 years to get the top post is too long and can even become longer .RAGA missed the chance to gain experience to govern as he should have taken charge of some Ministry when UPA was in power for 10 years ,but that time and opportunity is gone .In present situation instead of waiting for 5 years he should take the route from CM to PM and should make efforts to revive his Party in a particular State where elections are due and he should be projected as CM candidate ,which of course can happen in a State where there is no aspirant for CM post at present or someone who is willing to leave his ambition to become CM for RAGA.If RAGA can be successful in this attempt ,which of course is not easy, he can remain in power and can overall see the revival of party in other States with help of State leaders. This may be one of the additional option in the list of three options as given in the article .

  12. These questions after so and so who are silly as if the person in power is immotal ,every one is going to die and after death the world does not come to halt.It moves along .Sardar or no sardar ,if tadipar can run the ruling party ,who ever may be the congrress president will be better than him.certainly not less.

  13. And other than what is stated by A D Amarnath some other qualifications will also add chances of revival of the party. These are all found in plenty in Feku but to name a few are:1. He must be a lie lama 2.Must capable of spreading hatred.3.Promote lynchings 4. Promote terrorism by giving tickets to terrorist undertrials 5.Manipulate various indices like GDP.6. Eat mushrooms 7.Make false promises. 8Extortion money for party.9 Disregard farmers.10 . Go on foreign jaunts..===

  14. The person who is going to take over as President should have following qualifications. 1. Should be loyal to family. 2. Should be intelligent and competent. 3. Should be able to turn around the party all over india.4. Acceptable to all the fissiparious groups of khangress slaves all over india. 5. Should have good knowledge, grasp and oratory skills. 6. Should not even dream of becoming permanent President or PM .7. Should remain a slave to pappu and his foreign mother and arrogant sister. 8. Should be totally shameless. 9. Prepared to give up all the powers and post of President when asked to do so. 10. Should not open his mouth unless asked to thereafter also. 11. SHOULD have a goid face value, high education , reputation to be honest and public respect. Perhaps this is whay Pappu and his foreign mother is seeking. It is not possible for the God even to create such a person if you don’t consider MMS as lifeterm President. The other alternative is make Sidhu the party president. After some time, there will be no necessity for the president post at all. Surely there will be no party at all.

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