Tuesday, 5 July, 2022
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What we don’t know about the crisis in the Congress

The media portrays the Gandhi family as one unit, but the great unknown in the Congress crisis may well be the political relationship between mother, son and daughter.

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In the commentary on the crisis in the Congress party, we hear a lot about the old guard versus the new guard, including even Rahul Gandhi versus Ahmed Patel. What doesn’t add up, and what no one attempts to explain, is the contradiction between Sonia Gandhi presiding over the old guard and wanting to promote the career of her son, Rahul Gandhi, as the inheritor of her mantle.

We hear a lot about this in the grapevine. But this is too important to be left to mere gossip. The great unknown about the crisis in the Congress party is the nature of the political relationship among three people of one family — or four, if you count Robert Vadra.

What do Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi talk about when they talk politics at the dinner table, with no non-Gandhi around? This mystery may well hold the key to the Congress party’s inability to find direction. If the Congress feels pulled apart in two directions, the root of this dispute may well be tied to the Gandhi family itself.

A former Union minister close to Rahul Gandhi told me last year that he wanted Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia to be chief ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, respectively. Despite being party president, Rahul was unable to have his way, and the old guard-aligned Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath became chief ministers. “Rahul’s point is,” the former minister said, “if I don’t get to decide who will be the chief minister, then why am I party president?”


Also read: Rahul Gandhi and Congress party can strike a fine balance in taking on Narendra Modi


Who calls the shots — Rahul, Ahmed Patel, or Sonia? 

Such disputes are often explained as Rahul Gandhi versus Ahmed Patel. But what about Sonia Gandhi? If she wants to pass the mantle on to Rahul, why doesn’t she let him have his way? We know that Sonia Gandhi is the all-powerful leader of the Congress party, no matter who occupies the president post. It is not possible that she doesn’t get to have the last word. So, the dispute is not Rahul Gandhi versus Ahmed Patel. It is Rahul Gandhi versus Sonia Gandhi.

Another example of this was when Rahul Gandhi resigned as party president and indicated that a non-Gandhi should be chosen for the post. This was Rahul Gandhi’s way of probably saying, ‘Let’s see how you can run it without the Gandhis.’ But Sonia Gandhi vetoed Rahul and became interim president. No doubt that she did it in the interest of Rahul and Priyanka, fearing that once the top job goes to a non-Gandhi, god knows how long that phase would last, how far it would go. Remember Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri?

But Sonia Gandhi’s decision — no doubt sold to its supporters with an extended drama in the Congress Working Committee — was a public repudiation of Rahul Gandhi’s authority. It is well known that Rahul Gandhi wanted Mukul Wasnik for the top job, because the latter would have served the same purpose for him as Manmohan Singh did for Sonia.

If it did not involve the mother and son, this whole affair would have been a matter of great public humiliation for the party’s top leadership.

The public understanding of the Gandhi family is of a close, coherent unit that acts in unison. Yet, the differences are clear as daylight. Since we have almost no knowledge of the political relationship between the mother and son, it must be said here that according to the grapevine, Rahul feels stifled by his mother. Sonia is a status quoist; Rahul wants to experiment and be allowed to fail and learn.

Priyanka Gandhi has made it amply clear that she is with Rahul Gandhi. In the first CWC meeting after the 2019 debacle, she is said to have led the offensive defence of Rahul. But even with Priyanka, there is a family dynamic. It is well known that she wanted to contest against Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and even in 2014, but was not allowed to do so. Who stopped her? Once again it is the unknown family dynamic.

The obvious inference is the fear that Priyanka could overshadow Rahul and that would destroy any chances he has. Priyanka Gandhi’s eventual entry into politics and her current political status largely limited to Uttar Pradesh are also in keeping with the objective of not threatening Rahul’s position as the heir apparent.


Also read: Reclaiming Indian pluralism will need annihilation of the Congress party


Let go

Many leaders in the Congress party can see time flying away, and the remainder of their political careers going to waste, since the Congress is unable to come out of a deep coma. Some such leaders have written a letter to Sonia Gandhi, demanding a full-time leadership at all levels, thereby simply saying that the Gandhi family is not giving its best to the party. They have also demanded elections to the Congress Working Committee, a way of saying they want a non-Gandhi. Mukul Wasnik, earlier said to be a consensus candidate for a non-Gandhi president, is one of the signatories.

This is the time for the Gandhi family to let go. The three members will take years to resolve the dinner table dispute. Until then, they should bow before the wisdom of these courageous letter writers who are well aware of the punishment that awaits anyone who dares to rebel against the Congress leadership. Sonia Gandhi should think of history and not family, and resign for real, not as an emotional blackmail. Just let go.

The author is contributing editor, ThePrint. Views are personal.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Well, there is a Sunday Guardian report that ”Rahul proposes to push 70-year-old colleagues into retirement”. That would include his mother!

  2. Leave aside the outsiders in media and other political pundits, even the Congress persons, and the Dynasty itself don’t know what is ailing the Congress. The disease is like a Corona. The causes, symptoms and cures for which have many advisers.

  3. Though Shivam gives totally free advice to Rahul on what should be the strategy to defeat Modi, it was not expected that he would even advise Rahul to revolt against his ailing mother and go for the juggler. He should allow Gandhi family to run Congress as they wish as Congress cannot work without Gandhis. This is accepted by Congress people themselves and also by all others. All that happens inside Congress is just a family affair. God knows why Shivam is wasting his time and energy on advising Rahul. Perhaps he should now start working for Mamata Di.

  4. It’s a foolish proposition of Tharoor who’s aiming at the top slot that changing Gandhi family will help Congress come to power. Tharoor and others haven’t realized the incredible change in the political climate of today’s India. The heyday] of secularism of Nehru, Jaiprakash Narain has gone forever. Religious fanaticism, communalism, regionalism and casteism rule the day. Modi has won twice. Sonia is not to be blamed. It’s the change in political climate. Why did Mayawati, Yadav and popular local leaders fail? Modi alone can succeed in today’s political climate of India. Even if you change Sonia, Congress cannot win. Times have changed.

  5. I don’t know why journalists enthusiastically and passionately write pages and pages about Gandhi family ? Are they getting paid ? It does not appear to be sincere journalism. The new Indian generation is no more interested in dynastic rule

    • hmmm. yes. now dynasty doesn’t matter. parivar is all that matters. the sangh parivar. is it progressive or regressive is the debate that rages on.

  6. The Mughals, particularly the royal dispensation, was known to speak among themselves, not in Hindi, Urdu or Persian, but strictly, Chagtai Turk, to keep the rest of rhe folks strictly out of family business.
    The Gandhis, and this is no exaggeration or political mudslinging, are known to speak among themselves not in English, Hindi, Kashmiri or Gujarati, but strictly, Italian, according to those who have been in their company within whispering distance.
    What the Gandhis, therefore, talk at dinner table, is certainly Greek to their closest retainers.
    This opinion heads nowhere. 🤔

    • why is there a problem if they speak italian. even italian is from indo european lang family or derivative of sanskrit. if that gives some superiority feeling.
      they all have good intentions for india. how good the earlier regime is made clear through the mis-directions the current regime is taking which speaks most sanskrit.

  7. The well-wishers and self appointed ‘advisors and strategists’ for the Congress (including this author) are as confused as the party leadership. Basking in the past glory with dismal present and uncertain (bleak ?) future, blessed with uninspiring leadership; our sympathies are for with the dedicated defenders of this ‘had been’ party !

  8. Just 2 days back, Shivam wrote an article in the selfsame “ThePrint” that Congress should be – and that is the word he used – “annihilated”. Now, he takes a U-turn, and gives advise to safeguard Congress. Hypocrites!

    • Is not it the job of journalist to view things from different perspectives and show people reality from different point of views??
      He is no politician and has no reason to stick to previous stands and ideology.

      • That’s actually incredibly lazy analysis from YOU Aryan. Grow up and learn to assess things from multiple perspectives

    • Shri Vij has to churn out a certain number of articles in a specified period to earn his salary. In COVID times he is unable to go out much and meet people. So he is just doing his job the best he can. He is not be taken seriously.

  9. This is a relief. For a moment I thought there was a real risk of a non-Gandhi becoming Congress Leader.
    Hopefully Madam Gandhi will stay on for 6 months and that will give enough time to relaunch Mr. Rahul Gandhi who will bring his renewed strategic vision for the Congress!

    • Why so much fuss about the president of the party. Gandhis will always be decision makers in congress. During PVN, sonia wasn’t active because she never wanted to be. Also does the president command so much clout because he is president. Is nadda fraction of NM. Or amit shah is not any powerful after he passed the mantle.
      This brouhaha in congress party about the president is all non-sense. real problem is they are clueless to take on bjp in most communalised atmosphere. it looks damn difficult to dislodge current regime with secularism as the message.

  10. Rahul Gandhi should have credibility enough in the party to take decision which are accepted by all the fellow party members if he is unable to convince his party members thta shows lack of leadership quality .
    India is a democracy and not a monarchy where we should accept a person based on his lineage as a leader

  11. All drama is as per script. one amongst A.k. Anthony, Mam Mohan singh or Ahemad Patel , loyal to SG will be made the President of the party temporarily. . Hot seat will kept hot till Gandhi family member want to adorn it . No talent outside family is recognised. As per unwritten qualification for Congress President, the candidate should have mixture of foreign blood in his/her body. This is happening for a long time and now has developed as most important CONVENTION to be followed and strictly adhered to . Surprising our all knowing journalists either do not observe it or want to ignore it, to inform and comment .

  12. IT IS THIS CONGRESS PARTY WHICH MADE THIS COUNTRY INTO A DISASTROUS ONE !! IT IS THE PARTY WHICH REIGNED FOR SO MANY YERAS BUT DID’T DO ANY THING FOR THE POOR…THEY ENJOYED THE POWER AND LAVISHLY SPENT MONEY AND MISUSED GOVT. MACHINERY ONLY TO REMAIN IN FRONT LIGHT!! NO CONTRIBUTION AT ALL!! THE SUFFERINGS AND AGONY OF THE COMMON PEOPLE OF INDIA NOT HEARD…ONLY GRABBED THE POWER!! THEY INSTIGATE THE HINDUS AGAINST PUNJABI…INCITED COMMUNAL RIOTS IN MUSLIM AREAS TO GET MUSLIM VOTES…NURTURED ALL KIND OF CORRUPTIONS IN THE PAST BEFORE BJP TOOK THE BATON OF DESTRUCTION!! MOST DANGEROUS PARTY IN INDIA ALONG WITH BJP !! BOTH ARE IN THE SAME BOAT !!

  13. !! Asatyam Shivam Sadaa Sandesham ”

    Shivam We…zzzzzz ! You knew everything the other day!! Where did your 3-year plan go? Gandhi clan threw it into dustbin?
    Be consistent!
    There is a seat reserved adjacent to ‘Swami Nithyananda’ in ‘Kailaasa’ for you to continue preaching as usual.

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