Rahul sets terms to end sabbatical

Rift with old guard triggers blame game

By Rasheed Kidwai
  • Published 2.03.15
Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, March 1: Beneath the outward appearance of calm, a storm from within is buffeting the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi is reportedly unwilling to end his sabbatical until some influential Congress leaders are "sidelined" and the reins of the party are handed over to him.

But the flabbergasted "traditionalists" are questioning the merit of appointing Rahul as Congress president without going through the motions of an election process that will take at least eight months to complete.

Sections of Congress Working Committee members and state party leaders are also trying to dissuade Sonia Gandhi from announcing her "retirement" from active politics.

The rift between Rahul's team and senior Congress leaders is so wide that charges are flying thick and fast.

The flashpoint appeared to have been an attempt by leaders close to Rahul to pin the blame for all ills on Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to Sonia; Motilal Vora, the AICC treasurer, and Janardan Dwivedi, an AICC general secretary and Sonia's Hindi speech-writer.

The section opposed to Rahul is now highlighting his own preference for processes - an indirect reference to the time-consuming election exercise in the party - to argue against his immediate elevation to the top.

"Twice we moved a proposal to make him (Rahul) the Congress president but he declined. Even when he was made the party vice-president at Jaipur in January 2013, a section of the Congress wanted him to take complete charge," a leader said.

Many Congress leaders may have serious reservations about Rahul's leadership potential, style and ability to deliver but none wants to take him on.

But Rahul's team feels that the elaborate election process at this juncture will allow some key Congress veterans to drive a hard bargain, extract a price and maintain the status quo.

The Congress's organisational elections are due this year but, in the absence of any clear directions, an in-house panel has not announced the poll schedule.

Fed up with the relentless bickering, Sonia has reportedly told her trusted lieutenants that she does not want another term in office. Last heard, she has asked senior party leaders to sort out the issues.

Indications are the leaders are bending over backwards to accommodate Rahul's concerns to pave the way for his return.

But the rival camp has pointed out that Team Rahul should introspect about leaders and individuals who profess loyalty towards the young leader.

Mohan Gopal, Deep Kaul and Jairam Ramesh, along with AICC general secretaries Madhusudan Mistry, C.P. Joshi, Ajay Maken and Mohan Prakash, were given all powers during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but they failed to deliver.

Since the Jaipur session, most key decisions, including the appointment of Congress chiefs in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and other states, have been taken by Rahul.

In Congress circles, AICC general secretary Mohan Prakash is referred to as "Ulta Paras" for his alleged ability to convert every opportunity into a failure. (Paras is a mythical rock that can turns stone into gold). Prakash handled party affairs in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and a few other states where the Congress has lost badly.