It is more good than bad for the Congress with Sonia Gandhi coming back at the helm of party affairs. Her appointment was pivotal at this juncture to unify the party. With some big names including the likes of Karan Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Deepender Hooda and others coming out in support of abrogation of Article 370, the cracks in the party were out in the open. The party also saw crossovers like former Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Bhubaneswar Kalita.
At this point, a non-Gandhi president like Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury or Mukul Wasnik would have proven to be disastrous for the party. Sonia Gandhi will act as glue which the party requires at this juncture.
Apart from acting as the binding agent, Sonia Gandhi with her vast experience as a former Congress president and approachable leadership will help to contain any possible revolt or mutiny. She will also play a key role in keeping the warring state units together without letting a possibility of a split creep into the ranks. One also needs to keep in mind that when a centralist party like the Congress collapses, reinvention is a very long and tedious process. It is an uphill task for the Congress to reinvent itself and cash in on the anti-incumbency that the BJP would have generated. But to cash in on the anti-incumbency, a strong leadership is required and Sonia Gandhi will act as the bridge at a time when the Congress is looking to reinvent itself. Also, to build a counter narrative against the BJP, the Congress needs a strong leadership which can lay down the rules for its leaders and cadre.
For instance, if the Congress had a strong leadership in place, some big leaders may have not publicly taken a stand diametrically opposite to the party stand on Article 370. The only small drawback of the appointment of Sonia is that the decision may not really inspire the leadership and cadre. The Congress should have taken a cue from the BJP of the 1990s in appointing a president.
Like the BJP, which had appointed Bangaru Laxman and Jana Krishnamurthy as presidents in the late 1990s and early 2000s while the political leadership stayed with the likes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, the Congress could have appointed a working president while leaving the political centre with
either of the three Gandhis — Rahul, Sonia and Priyanka.
veteran journalist & author