BENGALURU: The Congress, which at least until last week, was hoping that AICC president Rahul Gandhi will reconsider his decision to quit from the post, now seems to have reached a stage of acceptance. While a host of Congressmen continue to hope that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi — who chaired two key meetings since the poll debacle, including one to pick the floor leader in Lok Sabha — will step in and take charge of the party, alternative arrangements are also being considered.
While names of senior leaders like Ashok Gehlot and Mallikarjun Kharge have made rounds for the coveted post, AICC office-bearers say that the party may be looking specifically Southward for more probable alternatives. Not only because the party put up its best in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the parliamentary elections, but also to make a statement that while the BJP pushes the ‘Hindi-Hindu-Hindi heartland’ agenda, the Congress can be seen as adapting to the ‘regional and diverse aspirations’.
The biggest setbacks to BJP in the recent Lok Sabha polls came from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Congress leaders seem to be looking at the possibility that the path to recovery could begin from here. While Tamil Nadu and Kerala have the numbers, Karnataka has the leadership required to rebuild the Congress.
“Nobody wants to be the captain of a battered ship, but veteran leaders have always been there through thick and thin. Mallikarjun Kharge was approached for the post, but he believes someone younger is the need of the hour,” said a Congress leader in the know of the development. Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was the first veteran leader to publicly acknowledge that alternatives have to be found without delay if Rahul is unwilling to continue as AICC president.
Prominent probable names from the South to succeed Rahul Gandhi include Mallikarjun Kharge, K C Venugopal and Oommen Chandy, all known for their exceptional organisational skills. While Gogoi and Gehlot, as veteran leaders, could be seen as chiefs who the young and the old guard will accept, political analysts believe that it is in Congress’ interest to begin from where it is the strongest.
“When the party is in crisis, you always go back to the place where you are stronger and start rebuilding from there. Even in the South, Congress’ real chances are in Kerala and Karnataka, with the kind of presence and leadership, unless they pick someone from the Northeast,” feels political analyst Prof Narendar Pani.