As Sonia Gandhi briskly walked into the Congress headquarters, there was inevitable Motilal Vora at over 85 years, walking equally fast, keeping pace with her. When her son Rahul Gandhi took over as the Congress president, Vora would walk as briskly and managed to keep pace with him. This has the USP of Motilal Vora or daddu as he was affectionately called within the party.
Easily mingling with the young and old, no rancour and a constant smile. Not only was he the treasurer of the party, he was also a treasure trove of the party’s many secrets. But try to wrangle any information from him and he would immediately put on a blank face and say “Achcha, aisa kuch hai kya? Maine toh naheen suna.” (Is that so? No, I haven’t heard any such thing.)
On our lucky days as journalists, Vora-ji as he was called and who was also a former journalist, would volunteer some information. When the government changed at the Centre and the funds dried up, Vora in his affable style managed to ensure that party colleagues continued their contribution to party funds. He would call up chief ministers asking for funds. And every bill was meticulously checked by him as long as he was the treasurer.
When the National Herald controversy hit the party, dragging Vora, he was silent but firm. No matter what he never opened his mouth against the Gandhis, nor divulged any secret.
Within a month, Congress party, more importantly Sonia Gandhi, has lost two of her most trusted lieutenants. Motilal Vora and Ahmed Patel. the two incidentally were buddies and when Patel succumbed to post-Covid complications, Vora tweeted to say who would come to his home now to have chai and dahi bhalla. The two together ensured that Sonia was well guarded and were her backbone. It came as no surprise that Patel took over as treasurer from Vora during the organisational reshuffle. It was easy to keep track of funds and the money trail. Sources say Sonia could not trust anyone else with the finances.
Today Sonia stands alone at the most critical juncture of her and her party’s political future. It’s in moments like these when many leaders fall prey to lures from other parties like the BJP for greener pastures that the Gandhis need loyalists and free fighters. Sonia Gandhi held a meeting of the disgruntled letter writers recently. The purpose was to ensure that Congress looked like a united house. And in case Rahul Gandhi becomes the president, he has the entire party backing him and standing by his side. In fact, when Rahul had resigned after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, both he and his sister Priyanka Gandhi had complained that not everyone in the party had supported his ideas and campaign.
It’s at his time that Sonia Gandhi would be needing her trusted aides like Patel and Vora the most. They were the bridge in a party which is deeply divided with its main egos and ambitions. But if any of the two would call up party leaders, it would be difficult for any Congressi not to fall in line.
The departure of not just Motilal Vora, Ahmed Patel but also Pranab Mukherjee and Tarun Gogoi at this critical juncture couldn’t have come at a worse time. The BJP’s popularity shows no sign of ebbing and with even regional parties eating into Congress votes, the going is tougher. It’s at this time that Gandhis must be missing the briskness of Vora-ji and others. The walk has become lonely.