Between Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s proposal to step down from her party’s leadership and that of her Congress counterpart, in the wake of the Lok Sabha elections drubbing, Rahul Gandhi’s offer appeared to have more conviction. Mamata closed the resignation door as quickly as she opened it, making it farcical, as she ended up saying it was a case of the chair needing her than the other way round.
On the other hand, Rahul did some plainspeak at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting—the party’s highest decision-making body—and took full responsibility for the loss while castigating the team for failing to convert the party’s narrative into votes. The total wipeout of the Congress in the three Hindi speaking states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh was particularly galling, as they had been wrested from the BJP barely six months ago. And his loss at Amethi to Smriti Irani was a moral sinkhole, as a Gandhi had been defeated in the family pocket borough after a whopping 39 years.
Rahul made the right noises on the who-after-him question, saying it was not necessary for a Gandhi to be at the helm, triggering a guessing game on the probables. But by design or otherwise, he cut off dynast newbie general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s chances, saying she should not be dragged into the vortex. He also attacked Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, his Rajasthan counterpart Ashok Gehlot and party elder P Chidambaram, saying they went about feathering their own nests, insisting on party tickets for their progeny.
While the CWC adopted a resolution rejecting Rahul’s offer to resign and gave him full powers to overhaul the leadership, it is well known that big decision making still happens at 10, Janpath. For example, Gehlot’s chief ministership is attributed to his successful lobbying with Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka; Rahul’s choice was Sachin Pilot. To be fair, Rahul does appear to have matured as a leader over time, though some wannabe allies think otherwise. While the last word on Rahul’s leadership is yet to be said, party would hope he hasn’t plateaued.