Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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New Delhi: The Nehru-Gandhi family seems to be losing its grip over the Congress, with party leaders increasingly defying its hitherto unquestioned writ, contradicting the party line on contentious issues and quitting at the very first opportunity.

Five Congress MLAs in Maharashtra have already resigned from the party and over half-a-dozen more are negotiating with the BJP, a senior state Congress functionary told ThePrint. The development is a seeming vindication of BJP chief Amit Shah’s claims that if he opens his party’s doors in Maharashtra, nobody, barring former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, will be left in the Congress.

There are similar reports from the other poll-bound states of Jharkhand and Haryana where former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has virtually revolted.

“A big worry is that the Nehru-Gandhi family that bound the party together and around which the entire party rallied at all times may be losing its hold,” said an All India Congress Committee (AICC) functionary.

Waning influence

There have been a number of instances to suggest that the Gandhis’ influence on the party may be waning.

When Rahul Gandhi, the former party president who is likely to return to the helm sooner rather than later, was at the receiving end of the BJP for questioning normalcy in Kashmir, which Pakistan used in its petition to the United Nations, few party colleagues came out to endorse his stand.

They berated the ruling party for twisting his remark but none came out in support of his original statement regarding “reports about people dying” in the Valley, which sparked the controversy in the first place. It’s a far cry from the time Congressmen would rush to support every word and action of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

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10, Janpath, Sonia Gandhi’s residence, used to be the first port of call for any party chief minister visiting Delhi. One of them recently spent a couple of days in the national capital but left without even seeking an appointment with her, confided a Congress leader, blaming it on Rahul’s “condescending behaviour” with his party colleagues.

After Rahul offered his resignation at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, party leaders remained silent for a day, until social media was abuzz with talk of everyone in the Congress wanting him to go. The Indian Youth Congress then decided to organise a hunger strike in front of his house but very few turned up. The move did not find an echo in the power centre of the party — many in the Congress felt senior leaders refused to take ‘responsibility’ for the poll defeat.

“There is little respect for Rahul or Priyanka (Gandhi-Vadra) in the party,” political analyst Sudha Pai told ThePrint. “Sonia is still respected because she worked a lot for the party, but Rahul failed to foresee the 2019 poll disaster and Priyanka didn’t make a dent on the scene despite expectation.”

According to Pai, Rahul has definitely been isolated in the party, especially by the old guard.

“They’re hoping Sonia will be able to rally the troops as she did in 1998, but age and the political climate are not on her side,” Pai said. “She also doesn’t have the same kind of relationship she had with other political parties in the 2000s.”


Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s Kashmir somersault shows how Congress is stumbling from one crisis to next


Rebellion of the junior brigade

What is more alarming for the Congress high command is what veterans see as the first signs of rebellion from the party’s prominent young faces — Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh, Milind Deora in Maharashtra, Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, Deepender Hooda in Haryana and Jitin Prasada in Uttar Pradesh, to name a few.

These young leaders chose to go public with their dissent against the party line on Article 370 when Sonia was preparing to take over the party’s reins as interim president, reportedly to keep the seat warm for her son. Scindia and Pilot have been sulking since they were denied chief ministership of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan last December.

Scindia’s supporters in the party have been attacking Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and senior leader Digvijaya Singh and have even threatened to resign if the party’s reins are not handed over to the former Guna MP. The party high command sought to mollify Scindia by first appointing him general secretary in-charge of western UP and then appointing him as the chairman of Maharashtra poll screening committee.

“We know Jyotiraditya and Pilot are unhappy but how do you explain their impatience? Will the BJP make them chief ministers?” said a senior Congress leader, adding that the party was aware of “all rumours” about their next move.

Pilot recently hit out at Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s failure to prevent the closure of the Pehlu Khan case, where the accused were acquitted. Pilot insisted that an SIT should have been set up earlier to prevent the acquittals.

Prasada has been repeatedly contradicting the party line, first supporting the NDA government on its Article 370 move and then echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion for population control. His close aides, however, maintain that he is only trying to drive home the point that the party needs to understand the public mood and change its politics accordingly.

Deora, claim Maharashtra Congress leaders, has been “in touch” with the BJP and is preparing to jump ship. He didn’t respond to calls and text messages from ThePrint about these claims.

“You are only looking at famous names. Every Congress leader who is serious about his political career is exploring his/her options outside the party,” a young party functionary said.

“What do you do when people are so enthusiastic about the scrapping of Article 370, population control, and many other things advocated by Modi? Rahul Gandhi wants us to oppose everything, regardless of the public support for them. You can’t blame the leaders for looking out.”


Also read: Demonising Modi, not recognising his work won’t help: Jairam Ramesh warns Oppn


‘Leaders see no viable future in the Congress’

According to experts, the inability of leaders to see a politically viable future for themselves in the party coupled with the leadership crisis since Rahul’s resignation has encouraged them to speak their minds.

From a virtual revolt over the abrogation of Article 370 to a simmering resentment against the inclusion of watering down the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as a key Lok Sabha poll manifesto promise, many senior Congress leaders have over the last few months expressed their discontent with the party.

Political analyst Rashid Kidwai sees this differently. “This kind of frank expression is not new in the Congress,” he told ThePrint. “The only difference is that when Sonia took over in 1998, she could offer to accommodate dissenting leaders; now, the task is tougher as the leaders feel there is no hope left in the party.”

During Sonia’s first term as party chief in 1998, the Congress faced a similar situation across the country.

For one, it was in power in only four states but the Congress did, however, have 141 MPs. Sonia was responsible for reviving the party from the ground up, easing the friction between senior leaders from former PM P. V. Narasimha Rao’s time, to finally leading the party to victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

“But at this point in time, they (unhappy Congress leaders) know they have no choice other than the Congress as the BJP is overcrowded, and the regional parties are not an option,” Kidwai said.

Sonia elevation does little to quell dissent

It was expected that once Rahul was out of the picture, the Congress could put up a more cohesive, united face. But even after Sonia’s appointment as interim party chief, Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor and Abhishek Manu Singhvi have questioned the party’s strategy with regard to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Demonising” Modi doesn’t work they said, not unmindful of Rahul’s unrelenting haranguing of the PM.

Kidwai has a different take again. “I think it is because of Sonia Gandhi that the party has been able to hold it together. Despite talk about many leaders quitting the party, we haven’t seen a single leader exit since she took over,” he said. “This is mere posturing. They know they don’t have any other choice.”

Sonia’s presence has quelled the dissatisfaction of the leaders, said Kidwai, as they felt they would at least get a patient hearing. “It’s fashionable to criticise the Gandhis,” Kidwai said. “But the party needs to introspect and look within, many of its leaders haven’t risen to the occasion when needed.”


Also read: Shashi Tharoor: Congress members must constructively criticise Modi, not go after my tweet


 

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27 Comments Share Your Views

27 COMMENTS

  1. Congress needs clarity. Instead of countering a culture of intolerance, congress leaders simply want to tow the line and give in to BJP/RSS propaganda by talking about going with ‘public mood’ and blaming RG for doing the job of the opposition. Do we not know the massive PR propaganda and RSSS footwork which has fuelled public mood? People voted for the congress for 50 years after 370 , because they understood that the newly independent nation could not have been created by force but by evolving consensus through democratic procedures rather than sparking revolts through action at gunpoint which BJP believes in. This will have long term repercussions for how long can you hold people by force? More militarisation and more militancy will be the result. And when the opposition tries to reach out to the people there and talk about observing democratic procedures and consensus , leaders like RG are vilified by his own party ! He took a principled stand and distanced himself from pakistan too. If people are not willing to listen today, they have to be made too and reached out to and talked to , if teh opposition ever wants to become an alternative force which can stand up to the ruling party. Congress better realise this than blaming the only leader who has taken this on, who dares to openly challenge , who spend so much time building democratic structures and rehauling within the party . Unlike other leaders who have only been worried about how to retain power.

  2. Firstly, everyone must understand that Nehru Gandhi are NOT properties of Congress. Nehru and Gandhi belong to all Indians. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi do not inherit Gandhi fame.

    The other members of the Congress must take chance to grow in party by their own abilities.

  3. Modi as PM is taking. strong measures in the national interest and is viewed as a competent leader appreciated all across the world .Against this background Congress finds it difficult to project a matching leadership to withstand the Modi hurricane.Besides Congress has no sound reason to oppose the BJP policies.Even Mahatma Gandhi had foreseen such a situation and noted that if other party is elected to rule the country,Congressmen should accept the reality.During those days people could hardly think of anything except Congress Party as it continued to harp on its contribution to freedom struggle and there was no viable alterative for a long time. Renaissance of Congress party appears a far cry as things stand today.

  4. The earlier, the Congress party disintegrates and disappears, the better for this country. It is true a healthy democracy needs a good opposition but Definitely not the Congress to be it, the extent of damage it has done to the country in the past, surpasses the good it has done. It will continue to practice divise & selfish politics even at the cost of the country future to regain power. So let all of us come together and drive the last nail on the Congress coffin, it will be a fitting lesson to other parties that they meet the same fate, if they follow the same path.

  5. Strong opposition is the need of the hours. Without strong opposition, India can not sustain be a democracy. Governments in big majority can not hear voices of the people of this country. Present economic slow down due to demonitisation and GST have been orbitrary decisions. No body will be able to question goverment actions. Democracy will survive with strong opposition and people will have say in running policies. EVM is next issue, where majority of people doubt its working and no transparency in Voting with EVM. Amendments in RTI is the current example of defiance of people confidence in majority government. People are educated and they know meaning of every news.

    • Seventy years of democracy could not provide toilets and drinking water and electricity to more than half the population. Let us have a little less democracy for another twenty years at least. It will do no harm to the poor.

    • We do need a strong opposition but Congress has lost its credibility. General people think it is anti national and anti Hindu. It’s leaders are drowned in corruption including Sonia and Rahul. People are disgusted with RG, SG, Vadra, Priyanka, Sibbal, Sharma, MMS, Chidambaram and so many. The party shall dissolve and new Congress be formed by Pilot, Deora and Scindia. We may have hope then. EVM is faultless and no party came forward to prove it is false when ED called. So stop blaming EVM. Same EVMs gave Congress power in four states. Stop crying inthe name of EVMs.

  6. Mother India reigns Supreme. Those who believe and act as Bharat Mata in entirety can only be trusted . Woe to them who live to think otherwise.
    The British engineered partition of India for continuity of their dividends. Lo and Behold ! Are they not staring at Independent Republics of Walistan, Scotistan, Iristan and Englistan?
    The P5 seat at UNSC of Erstwhile British Isles will be India’s. The plundered wealth from India is homeward bound to the rightful owners here.
    Ditto in Domestic Scenario Salute to All who Believe and Act as India is One the Land of Vedas .

    This is Voice of Mother India

  7. I think Rahul Gandhi has been the only one who has provided a clear stand on issues and has had the courage to take up issues that the opposition must take up ., rather than simply become a second grade soft hindutva version of BJP . The country today needs leaders who create space for divergent views rather than simply peddling ‘public mood’ created by BJP RSS PR machinery and a spineless media. Otherwise there will be no opposition and BJP will gobble up everyone else- those spineless power hungry congress leaders who would rather go to BJP will leave congress better off. We’d rather have a opposition which stands up for issues than one that simply becomes a part of spineless public discourse . RG was right in questioning abrogation, in going to J and K – if we consider kashmir and kashmiris to be part of the country and do not want to alienate them forever, then its the job of any opposition to look out for them and their welfare too and question the govt when democratic procedures are violated . Otherwise how will they feel part of the country? Congress leaders are power hungry spineless creatures who do not want to sincerely fight the right wing idealogy and build the party with an alternative discourse. No wonder, RG is today the most popular congress leader for having displayed courage, intelligence, principles in taking on the government while maintaining basic decency and morality of public discourse. No other leader in congress comes close . And media and others should stop this relentless criticism and give him his due too.

    • Rahul is the only fighter in the Gandhi Parivaar Since Nehru. No one has to struggle this much except for Nehruji. Rahul has never broken. His smiling face belies his great struggle. He is a good human being. Congress should get rid of these opportunistic treacherous termites who call themselves leaders. Congress: we are with you; we believe in you. Show a sign board saying “Fuck off” to these loosers, and make honest, ideologically united leaders feel worthy.

  8. Congress with Sonia Gandhi as Chief has potential to revive the Party , maybe with mix of Seniors and Junior leaders in the party. Seniors will definitely have to let go their egos aside and give way to Junior leaders march ahead. Congress can only give a strong opposition to India.

  9. when BJP could not get back the power from UPA led by Congress, it was same like what Congress looks like today and only difference, since BJP was in opposition for many years, there was no large scale defection from BJP to Congress or other allies of UPA, and neither Congress made any attempt “Operation Haath” like “Operation Kamal” now to get disgruntled leaders from Congress and other parties. However, then in 2009 all was not well for BJP, may be it was tactics of RSS to frustrate the old guards to bring in some one from RSS as they did in 2014 to promote Modi as PM . During one such churning process some time in August 2009, the senior BJP leader and Minister in Vajpayee government Arun Shourie went ballistic and went on to say “RSS take over the party and change its top brass lock, stock and barrel. He went on attack that BJP is “Kati Patang” (kite without string) and called the then BJP President Rajnath Singh as “Alice in Blunderland”. He further told the reporters Mao Ze Dong had said, “Bombard the headquarters. Clean up everybody from the top. Bring ten-fifteen people from states who are competent ,honest and dedicated and reconstruct immediately”. Continuing his attack Shourie had this to say “So, you want to be Humpty Dumpty and make words mean what you say and act, then I presume you already have in your mind to act against me or anybody, so act”. In response the then BJP Spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Ruddy had this to say “”the so-called writers are challenging fighters. The party is going through a phase of transition and will emerge stronger after such developments”. He further added that Shourie was making such comments as BJP had nothing to offer him as it was out of power. This is a bad time for the BJP. We have nothing to offer him and this is the problem with admitting people into party who are apolitical. They want to have the cake when you are in power. Shourie is a free bird. His nomination to Rajya Sabha is coming to an end. I am sure he wants action against him. He wants to martyr. We will make him a martyr” I have reproduced extracts from the report as Congress needs some one like Shourie to talk as the age old party is in the same situation like BJP between 2004-2014. For Congress it doesn’t have RSS parivar instead they only have Gandhi parivar. Congress cannot allow the power hungry leaders to take party and Nehru-Gandh for granted. Time has now for Congress to offer Voluntary Separation Scheme for those who want cling with party only when it is in power and not otherwise. It is time to bring in new faces and groom them as future leaders for them survive celebrate 150th anniversary.

    • Hahahaha, the big difference Cong has no ideology, the support jihadis, to anti-nationals and sone time also do temple hopping. Whereas BJP is outright clear from day one with its Ideology of Hindutva. It is ideology which is important. Congress cannot develop as it has wide range of people with diverse “poles apart” opinion. People have gone past the days of following “dynasties” & “family succession”.

  10. There is no longer any “Nehru-Gandhi Family” in Congress.There is in its stead, only a “Family” with three different power centers. within itself. Party leaders gravitate from one to the other as they perceive the wind to be flowing. Ultimately, the only consideration for the party men/women is :”What is in it for ‘me’? They will flock behind the one they perceive as holding the best cards. And right now, they see only Sonia as having any clout at the top. Rahul queers his own pitch by making, and also expecting the party to make, ridicule and dismissal of anything that Modi says and does as the ONLY mantra. Everyone in the party has now seen that this is a suicidal policy like the Law of Diminishing Returns. As for PGV, she took far less time than even Rahul to expose herself as being unworthy of following. Thus, only Sonia stands alone. But even she has never had a touch on the pulse of the people. Else, she would have foreseen long ago, well before May 2014, the steep fall that awaited Congress. What is amazing is that they STILL fail to see it, when everyone else can.

  11. The Congress Party needs to be dis-banded , Mrs. Sonia Gandhi needs to retire from Politics permenantly , Rahul Gandhi should quit Politics and look for some new vocation .

  12. It cannot be denied that the election campaign was a total disaaster. Rahul played with issues that became boring and soon was made a joke of. After losing badly the cry about EVMs and it’s excess media presentation was more of losers weepers story. The Gandhi’s have their back to the wall and cannot escape from the young brigade.

    • Please write in Italian language this time. Perhaps pappu and his Italian mother might not have understood English or any other Indian languages

    • All political parties and career politicians may need to read another important change in the voter behaviour. Even a strong party without credible opposition can’t be sure of winning a general election without meeting their expectations at least partially unlike it has been happening to the lucky Congress for decades irrespective of any real benefit to the nation.

      This realisation by ruling party would force developmental actions not seen before, thus keeping the oppositions high and dry for quite a while from now. Not sure if Congress can survive till the present ruling party loses its steam.

      Neither is a loss.

  13. If too many senior level leaders jump ship to the BJP, they would also realize that there is not much room for them , since the BJP’s own personnel will expect priority when it comes to ticket distribution. Instead, these leaders will do well to work out a modified approach to issues like population , 370 , Civil Codes , ram Mandir etc . These approaches can differ in some respects from the BJP’s and still win large support. We get the feeling that in the Congress, no core group is working out the approach to important issues and clearing with party leaders. To depend on Rahul’s knee jerk and ill thought out pronouncements as policy is to invite disdain and disaster.

  14. Country needs a viable opposition since it is run on the basis of democracy. Building up BJP as a behemoth does not help the country, nor does it help that party either. It is growing as a heterogenous body with so many contradictory elements – like rightwing, leftist, secular and communal all together only to grab power. If BJP loses one election in any one of the state, this influx will stop. The present economic gloom will excelerate this process. We can’t say Congress will have a future or not. But BJP, if it continues with this trend of open door, cannot have a future either. Many of its friends, including Anna Hazare, have warned it in this regard.

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