NEW DELHI: With Sonia Gandhi back as interim president, the Congress needs to do a holding operation, riven as it is with desertions, factionalism and general disenchantment after over two months of drift. And the upcoming Assembly elections in three states will be her first test.
Sonia’s name was proposed by senior leader P Chidambaram as the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Saturday found there was no consensus on anyone else.
While a few CWC members worried about her ability to take the load because of her ill health, Sonia reluctantly gave her consent.
Now, the biggest challenge before her is to set the house in order in the poll-bound states of Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra. While the party has named its poll panel in Maharashtra, it is struggling to do so in Haryana and Jharkhand because of factionalism.
A top party functionary was optimistic on everyone falling in line with Sonia at the helm, though revamping the party would be a challenge.
“Having acceptability among all section of the society, the party felt she was the best person for the job,” the leader said.
It may, however, give heartburns to the Young Turks, especially those handpicked by Rahul Gandhi, as there was strong lobbying for a non-Gandhi young leader to take over the reins.
The exercise to elect a full-time president, whenever the party decides to call an AICC session, is expected to see a similar face-off between the youth and the old guards.
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With Sonia back at the helm, it’s hoped her rapport with leaders of other Opposition parties would help them put up a joint fight against the BJP. But, building Opposition unity is easier said than done.
Political observers and academics feel the party has taken a step backward.
“This move will fail to instill inspiration in the leadership and the cadre. But they did not have any other option... Congress now faces an uphill task of reviving itself while trying to control desertions. Whether it will be able to do it with an ailing chief like Sonia remains to be seen,” said Sanjay Kumar, Director, Centre for Studies and Developing Society.