NEW DELHI: The wait may finally be over. After helming the Congress party for 18 long years, Sonia Gandhi, it seems, is set to hand over ‘the baton’ to son Rahul Gandhi. The elevation of the Congress vice president, the fifth generation dynast counting from Motitlal Nehru, to the Grand Old Party’s presidentship may happen any time soon.
The ‘major surgery’ — advocated by senior leaders like Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath — after the recent poll debacle in Assam and Kerala, could even be undertaken in the next few weeks. That is, if the Rahul camp can pull off a palace coup with a major shake-up of the AICC set-up — replacing deadwood with young blood. The party vice president, it seems, is working on the reshuffle list.
“It’s going to happen. The timing (as in how soon is ‘soon’) is being decided. What I can share is that, things are moving very fast,” said C P Joshi, AICC general secretary, considered close to Rahul.
From Sonia Gandhi’s bouncing board A K Antony, to her political secretary Ahmed Patel, all have admitted that a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting “is due” but the “dates have not been decided”. The CWC is slated to be followed by an AICC session — a ‘chintan shivir” either in Bengaluru or Shimla.
Senior leaders like Congress general secretary organisation, Janardan Dwivedi, however maintained that they are “waiting patiently” for the Congress leadership to make up its mind. “Congress president along with the family will take the final call” when “Rahulji is ready to take charge” and “Soniaji’s ready” to relinquish the reins of the party, after the longest-ever stint.
As part of the newly expanded core group which has veterans like Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, however, said that “the timing would be a collective decision — the core group is deliberating. It’ll happen at the right time, we cannot be doing it at the media’s bidding”.
According to sources, what may be forcing the Congress leadership’s hand to agree to the change-of-guard without further delay “is the renewed threat” of the heir-apparent “taking off” on yet “another three-month sabbatical”. The party faced much embarrassment when Rahul disappeared to an undisclosed destination earlier. His re-emergence in a new avatar had somewhat diverted the narrative. But without the much-awaited change taking place, the initial enthusiasm fizzled out. The steady electoral decline amidst corruption allegations against the first family members put the party a slippery slope.
Sources said the party vice president has been rather upset over the manner in which he was blamed for every single issue, without being given the responsibility to steer the party. He was, for instance, merely informed about the Rajya Sabha candidates with his choices for Karnataka and Maharashtra seats overlooked to accommodate the old guard.
For the first time, the push for the change emerged from Rahul’s own office. Without mincing words, one of his close aides actually said the vice president “is constantly accused of the poll debacles and all other ills” — he “gets the flak without being able to take the decisions”.
In Assam, Kerala and West Bengal, Rahul apparently went by the party’s decision, allowing the Chief Ministers and the local leadership.
Despite his soft-spot for Mamata Banerjee, a source said, Rahul went by the PCC’s decision to have an understanding with the Left, but he was later accused of diluting Congress politics, that impacted the Kerala results.
That a change was on the cards was acknowledged on Friday by Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Captain Amarinder Singh in Chandigarh.
Sonia to take final call
The “Congress president along with the family will take the final call” when “Rahulji is ready to take charge” and “Soniaji’s ready” to relinquish the reins of the party, after the longest-ever stint, according to party veterans.