After Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as Congress president, Sonia Gandhi has an onerous task at hand. The joke going in party circles these days is that Sonia Gandhi is trying to steer a large wagon, which just about everyone wants to drive. And all of this one month in her stint in office, she has sought to ensure everyone gets a chance at the wheels. As a result, the vehicle has failed to even hit the road.
In Haryana for instance, Sonia Gandhi has made an attempt to give a little impetus to the party in the throes of an internecine brinkmanship. She has sought to give space to former chief minister Bhupinder Hooda, who has been breathing down the neck of the party high command. The two-time chief minister remains Congress’ best bet in the state going to polls later this year.
But to keep Hooda under check, she has also nominated family loyalist Kumari Sheilja as state unit president. Shelja is a Dalit from Ambala and someone who has stood her ground even in the face of Hooda’s dominance in state politics.
Sonia Gandhi conceded to Hooda’s demands to remove Ashok Tanwar. His replacement will also not give an easy walk-over to Hooda in decision making. Shelja in the past made no bones about her reservations with Hooda’s style of functioning.
Of course, this has left Ashok Tanwar, the outgoing PCC chief, fuming and high and dry. He was seen to be close to Rahul Gandhi and his replacement means eventually, Sonia Gandhi would have to rescind many of her son’s decisions.
Sonia Gandhi’s announcement on Haryana is bound to have an impact on other states where rebellion is brewing. In Madhya Pradesh, sources say, Sonia Gandhi told close advisers she doesn’t approve of pressure tactics being adopted by Scindia loyalists. However, the party can ill afford to let go of the former Gwalior MP.
So what’s the solution? At least for a year, no Rajya Sabha seat from the state is falling vacant to keep the rebels interested.
For Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is fighting a battle for ‘astitva’ in his home state, the appointment as chairman of screening committee of poll-bound Maharashtra has not worked as an effective bait.
For now, it seems Chief Minister Kamal Nath may continue as PCC chief. Sonia Gandhi, sources say, has taken note of reports of Digvijaya Singh running the state as de-facto CM. In the days to come, the party may do a balancing act by clipping wings of the Nath-Digvijay duo.
Sonia Gandhi, in her first term in office, did not show any haste in taking crucial political decisions. She also attempted to balance out all factions, quite unlike Rahul Gandhi whose style is more staccato.
However, those left out in the bargain may not take it laying down. In Haryana, for example, it would be keenly watched how Ashok Tanwar and outgoing CLP leader Kiran Chowdhary react to the changes made. And the Shelja and Hooda face-off is unlikely to end, despite both declaring publicly that all is well and they would work together.
The more things change in the Congress, the more they remain the same.