Contrary to reports, the Congress is still undecided over Rahul Gandhi replacing his mother as Congress president. The quandary, as in the past, seems to be about timing.
With the Congress Working Committee (CWC) clearing the way for organisational elections in the party by 15 October, it has been widely anticipated that this exercise will culminate in the much-anticipated elevation of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as president, replacing his mother Sonia Gandhi. However, if the tone and tenor of Tuesday’s CWC meet is anything to go by, it seems the party remains undecided on Rahul’s elevation.
Sources in the party, who did not wish to be identified, point out that the meeting, and speeches made by the top leadership, clearly indicate that it is in fact Sonia who remains in charge of the party and its leadership. The CWC was unequivocal about Sonia asserting control, and taking on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government head-on. This is much in tune with the last few weeks where she has been at the forefront of reaching out to opposition leaders on the presidential elections, as well as larger attempts to forge a united front ahead of 2019.
Addressing the CWC, Sonia used exceptionally strong words to target the Modi government and took on the BJP head-on, claiming there was a “brazen campaign to strait-jacket the whole country into a regressive and narrow-minded world-view”. Coming down on the government on a range of issues, Sonia also chalked out the path for her party, and set the agenda.
Rahul, meanwhile, remained more in the background on Tuesday, as he has in the last few weeks even on the question of forging opposition unity. His CWC focus was more on building party processes and operations than on being the face of it. Rahul said he will chair a high-level panel to decide the party’s stance on key issues and announced the formation of cells to reach out to professionals and traders.
Some sources in the party believe that if Rahul’s elevation in October was as much of a given as it is being portrayed, the tone of the CWC would have been different and would have focused more on branding Rahul as the leader and on putting him at the forefront of leading the charge against the government at an important forum such as the CWC. The sources say several factors could still be holding Rahul back. Most importantly, the idea was for him to take charge when the party was on an upswing, and not at a point like now when it is at its weakest ever. Moreover, if the party splits in Gujarat given the crisis there, this decision could be delayed further.
The sources point out how Rahul’s “imminent elevation” is something often heard before and that this CWC meeting did not give any specific indication of its imminence, besides clearing the organisational polls schedule.
To be sure, the Congress president’s health, scheduled internal polls and other circumstances do lead towards the conclusion that Rahul could well finally be crowned Congress president this year. More so, because the top command has always been in favour of this happening through a proper process which appears to be organic and not as a sudden decision which appears like it has been imposed top-down.
However, given October is several months away, the prospect of Rahul’s elevation still remains in the realm of speculation. For now, it is clear that Sonia is decisively handling the party baton and leading the charge.
(Lead picture of CWC meeting courtesy Congress Twitter handle)