What will be the role of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi after Monday's Congress working Committee meeting? Will he continue to be a de facto president or adopt a low profile role? There was so much speculation about the frank letter written by 23 dissident Congress leaders to the party president Sonia Gandhi which was discussed in the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy making body of the party on Monday. Though the meeting addressed some of the issues raised by the dissidents, it ended with the CWC passing a unanimous decision to request Sonia to continue as the president. Sonia Gandhi on her part stressed the need for unity and adopted 'forget and forgive' attitude towards the dissidents.
For the past one year Rahul has been the de facto boss of the party and took almost all the decisions. This time Rahul kept his cards close to his chest and kept quiet when the chorus for 'Rahul lao, Congress bachao' was full throated in the CWC meet. It is clear that he has kept his options open.
Though the dynasty triumphed with Sonia continuing, the CWC decided to have an AICC as demanded by the dissidents. It will also have a new full time president after the AICC session president. No doubt Rahul will be persuaded to contest elections and he will have no challengers. Even Sonia Gandhi faced challengers, as Jitendra Prasada contested against her for the post of the president and lost.
Rahul is fully backed his mother Sonia Gandhi. It is normal for any mother to expect her son to succeed her and Indira Gandhi made no secret of it. She had groomed her younger son Sanjay Gandhi but after his untimely death, she began to depend on Rajiv Gandhi who had not shown any inclination to come to politics. Similarly Sonia Gandhi wants her son to succeed but the son wants to be powerful in the party without responsibility.
So it is a big question mark what will Rahul Gandhi do in the coming months? The indications are that he might contest and become the party president. Until the AICC session, he might play his behind-the-scene role advising his mother. The press conference held after the CWC clearly indicated this as the chief Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala ended his press meet by saying that the entire party wanted Rahul to head the party, indicating that the options were still kept open.
No doubt if he takes over as the elected president he will be strengthened within the party and he can pick his team with moral authority instead of his dynastic strength. He can reform the party if he wants. The only thing is that he should choose the right man for the right job. The team Rahul he built so far has become fragile after his close aides like Jyotiraditya Scindia left the party to join the BJP and Sachin Pilot almost did. His handpicked men like Jitin Prasada, Milind Deora and others are discontented and looking for greener pastures. In fact, instead of the disgruntled old guard, it was 'Team Rahul', which broke.
Rahul should learn a thing or two from his mother if he wants to be successful in his second stint. For instance, when she came to politics in 1998, she was inexperienced, not fluent in Hindi. She adopted herself to the needs of the party and with hard work she went on to become the first Leader of Opposition. In 2004, she went from leader to leader to form the UPA, which came to power in 2004. She was a status quoist and took decisions after consulting the senior leaders in her coterie.
Rahul Gandhi on the other hand is seen as arrogant, temperamental and has the least regard to the senior leaders. Left to himself, he would wish them away. No one in the party forgets his famous act of tearing a bill in front of the media men and humiliating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He has insulted many other senior leaders and did not believe in consulting the old guard who felt left out of most decisions. In retaliation, the old guard blocked Rahul a free hand. The result was the letter written by the dissidents. The CWC could not ignore the sentiments expressed by them. They have shown that the party needs to change and should address many issues they had raised.
Rahul Gandhi might have to be more polite to the senior leaders and curb his coterie also to do so. In fact, he must dump his present team and choose a new team with some roots and knows about the electoral politics. Even a foolish king can succeed if he has wise advisers. Part of Indira Gandhi’s success was because she had wise advisers like Haksar.
The Gandhi family certainly had a jolt after the dissidents wrote the letter, which was a direct attack on Rahul and his team. We have to see whether he continues to be de facto president or changes his style of functioning. The party cannot dump the Gandhi’s and Sonia will not dump Rahul.