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Congress Coup in the Works? Rahul Gandhi's Meditation in Cambodia May be Masterplan for His Second Innings

File photo of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. (Image: PTI)

File photo of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. (Image: PTI)

The rebellion in the Congress by the young turks, aided by Sonia Gandhi's desire to see a second coming for her son, may fuel the return of Rahul Gandhi as Congress president and the end of the Old Guard.


Pallavi Ghosh

The news of Rahul Gandhi going off for ‘vipassana’ to Cambodia for a few days has created a flutter. It leaves many of his chosen leaders in confusion as his meditation comes in the midst of crisis for the young and restless in the Congress.

What’s common in the rebellion of Ashok Tanwar, Sanjay Nirupam and Pradyot Debbarman is that all spoke of the "tyranny" of the Old Guard over the young — “Rahul’s people are being attacked and sidelined by Sonia’s group.”

In fact, before quitting the party, Tanwar said: “Mera maseeha hi mera qaatil hai” (my messiah was my killer) — a reference to the fact that he was chosen by Rahul Gandhi and targeted by former CM Bhupinder Hooda for being a part of the young guard.

The timing of Rahul Gandhi’s sudden departure comes as a surprise. It’s not just in the midst of the state elections but also when his team is facing the heat. Many juniors who are still with the party are unhappy and at a loss with regards to their future.

So why then did Rahul Gandhi leave right now? And why isn’t he breaking his silence? Sources close to his office say Rahul Gandhi will be back soon and will campaign in the last leg but he will not be the face of the party campaign nor canvass aggressively as he did during the Lok Sabha elections.

Sources say the restlessness of the young guard is not lost on him but the Gandhi scion prefers to wait this time. “When Indira Gandhi was about to take charge of the party, the seniors made her life hell. She faced stiff opposition and rebuke. This time, it is his [Rahul’s] mother’s team that is making his life tough,” said a senior leader.

This, however, is nothing new as when Rahul Gandhi took charge, the old guard — mostly Sonia Gandhi’s team — was nervous and at times, open about its level of discomfort working with him and his ideas. There were sniggers when Rahul Gandhi thought of democratic organisation elections and insisted that more tickets should be given to members of youth Congress.

It’s also a fact that Rahul Gandhi’s ideas for Lok Sabha polls had few takers. Not many were in favour of him attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale issue. In fact, when messages were sent to them for social media, many of the seniors refused to follow them. A person associated with the campaign said: “We created a WhatsApp group. Every morning, we would send messages but the seniors didn’t even bother.”

Though, in hindsight, the reading of the seniors that attacking Modi on corruption would boomerang might seem right, but the least Rahul Gandhi could hope for was that as party leaders, they would accept the line set by the then Congress president.

The Lok Sabha polls came as a shock to Rahul Gandhi. One of the reasons he resigned was because he felt that the seniors never stood by him. In fact, both Priyanka and Sonia Gandhi put this point across and expressed their disappointment with the party.

So why then is Sonia Gandhi letting the old guard win again? Why are the young ones not being placated? The answer seems simple. Sonia Gandhi wants a second coming for her son but this time, the coup will be from within, possibly nudged by her.

If Rahul Gandhi decides to become Congress president again after elections, it will mean the end of the old guard once and for all. The fact that the young are leaving the party by attacking the old guard will possibly be used by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi later to attack those who never let him work. And this is where Sonia Gandhi may possibly play a role.

By the Congress’ own estimates, Haryana and Maharashtra will be a wipe-out. In Haryana, where Hooda has been given a free hand, a smashing defeat could mean his end and several seniors, who pitched for him, could also face the heat. While Nirupam has not endeared himself to the high command, his attack at Sonia Gandhi’s team has hit bulls-eye. And while his future may remain uncertain due to his complaints over ticket distribution, the results may help Rahul Gandhi and his team to put across their case more firmly.

With polls round the corner, what Sonia Gandhi may be looking at is a truncated old guard. And this could pave the way for the young turks or Team Rahul to completely take over the Congress. One reason why the grand old party suffered under Rahul Gandhi as president was the constant tug of war between the Congress of Sonia Gandhi and that of her son. This ‘vipassana’ by the Gandhi scion may just mean the slow beginning of his second return. However, this time it’s the Congress that needs attention and not the BJP.

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