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Rahul Gandhi rigid, revolt brews in Congress over leadership question

Rahul has already conveyed to the leadership that he had no intention to return as party chief
Sources said many leaders feared Rahul Gnadhi’s rigid approach could trigger an unmanageable crisis and hence the interaction was postponed.

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 11.03.20, 10:47 PM

A revolt is brewing in the Congress over the leadership question and a crisis is about to erupt if Rahul Gandhi does not decide to return or step aside within the next few weeks.

Several “secret” meetings have taken place in the recent past in which senior leaders discussed the leadership issue and its debilitating impact on the functioning of the party. Some participants at these meetings have been important leaders of the Congress and they say their concerns are shared by the majority of party members across the country.

A proposal to approach Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to discuss the leadership issue could not fructify as many participants developed cold feet and suggested exploration of a safer way of negotiation to avoid the message of “revolt” or “groupism”.

Sources said many leaders feared Rahul’s rigid approach could trigger an unmanageable crisis and hence the interaction was postponed.

Rahul has already conveyed to the leadership that he has no intention to return as party chief. But that does not solve the problem as the dominant view is that the Congress is still in “wait mode” for his takeover and a decision-making system outside his control has not developed yet.

Most leaders believe waiting even a single day will be suicidal as the people are getting accustomed to an Opposition-less polity.

One key leader of this group told The Telegraph: “Sonia Gandhi is a stop-gap arrangement. Efforts to build an alternative are being made by other Opposition parties without taking the Congress in the reckoning. We intend to tell Sonia and Rahul to acknowledge the crisis and decide at the earliest. Rahul has to take the reins or step aside, paving the way for a full-fledged new president. This state of paralysis cannot be allowed now.”

A leader who is not part of this group pointed to the widespread resentment in the party and said: “A revolt is brewing; revolt against the family which is not doing enough to revive the party. If this scenario doesn’t change soon, the party may split.”

Even younger leaders concede that the state of inaction and indecision has strengthened the impression of Narendra Modi’s invincibility despite alarming ground realities and rising discontent among the people. They are, however, living with the dormant feeling that Rahul will return to lead sooner or later.

While many leaders contend that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra should take over if Rahul is not interested, some claim that she has already rejected the proposal.

Asked what if a revolt by a section of the party leads to a split, a former Union minister said: “We are running a party, not a private enterprise. It is not our bounden duty to wait for the return of one person who was chosen to lead the party and abandoned the sinking ship midway. We are accountable to the people of this country.”

This language being spoken about Rahul even in informal conversations in Congress circles signals that the frustration among leaders has risen to intolerable levels. Some powerful state leaders and ministers have also been consulted in this mission to settle the leadership issue and the majority of them admit the gravity of the situation.

The defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia has only aggravated the crisis.

One state leader said: “There was a perception that the leadership would be at its strongest with the presence of three active members of the Nehru-Gandhi family — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. The indisputable reality is that the leadership is at its weakest. The party has never been more miserable. After 2014, we had fought valiantly.

“We give credit to Rahul for leading the party. But his exit is inexplicable. We can’t stand hamstrung for want of a strong leader. We have to look for someone to lead the party.”


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