OPINION | Sonia Gandhi Has Presented Fait Accompli to PM Aspirants — Within and Outside Congress
In handing over complete control of the party to son Rahul, Sonia Gandhi has presented a fait accompli of sorts to regional satraps like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Yadav who are seen to be more comfortable in engaging with her.
Rahul Gandhi speaks with his mother Sonia Gandhi after taking charge as Congress president during a ceremony at the party headquarters in New Delhi on December 16, 2017. (REUTERS/Altaf Hussain)
Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his inaugural speech at party headquarters on Saturday attempted to pit himself against Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
His oratorical mix of aggression and reconciliation also pushed to position Congress as the only credible national alternative to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre.
Rahul’s poll pitch, coupled with Sonia Gandhi’s short and sharp “my job is to retire” quip has an inherent message for both Congress leaders and potential allies. Whether she will contest 2019 elections or not is another matter, but the outgoing Congress president has made it amply clear who is in charge and who will have the final word in party matters and in stitching alliances.
In handing over complete control of the party to son Rahul, Sonia has presented a fait accompli of sorts to regional satraps like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Yadav who are seen to be more comfortable in engaging with her.
As for Rahul, he’s just had a first-hand experience in Gujarat in managing a disparate social coalition. An AICC official described how Rahul played a major role in bringing Patidar leader Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani together in Gujarat despite contradictions in their caste interests.
Thus, there are two powerful messages in Rahul’s coronation. One to opposition leaders — that Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav, Naven Patnaik, Arvind Kejriwal, N Chandrababu Naidu, Nitish Kumar, MK Stalin, HD Kumarswamy and others cannot become Prime Minister without Congress support.
For the PM aspirants in the Congress, the writing is on the wall — If Congress were to lead a government at the Centre in the future, Rahul Gandhi would be the Prime Minister.
Now, the question is whether the Congress will formally name its newly elected party president as the PM face to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 General Elections.
Rahul Gandhi loves to project himself as an anti-establishment leaders, as someone seeking to protect the interests of the poor against the established class.
The biggest challenge to this narrative is the fact that he himself comes from a well-established political dynasty, well-entrenched in the system for over seven decades now.
He can’t claim to be an outsider, like Modi did in 2014, who is waiting in the wings to step in and change the system. He will have to spin a new political leitmotif around the present discourse and emerge as an acceptable face to bring non-NDA forces on one platform.
That’s easier said than done.
(The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)
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