Are the Gandhi trio-Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi – still having the traditional “Family” sway on the Congress Party? Do they still provide the direction or momentum for its party workers? Some in the Congress still think “Gandhi family” is needed for the unity of the Party. A few still believe that the reins of the Congress remain firm in the family’s hands.
Despite all this, there was a clamour for a leadership change and a few wanted the Gandhi’s to make way for others, For the Congress, it may be the first time that a widespread call against the Gandhi Family has come out. Soon after any debacle, it is quite routine in the Congress to hear such voices about leadership changes. And it happened this time also. But for the Gandhi’s, the chiefs of the five state units where the assembly elections were held were asked to resign. The general secretaries and in-charges of these five states, who also shares equal responsibility for the drubbing were spared from the task of resignation.
IS CONGRESS PREPARED FOR A LEADERSHIP CHANGE?
Definitely, a big no. Though a few voices could be heard here and there, demanding a change of leadership, a majority still believes the party is safe only under the wings of the Gandhi family. The Congress will never be prepared for any change of leadership, however, a few leaders may burst out. After the first days of silence and even offering to quit the post in the wake of the election downfall, Sonia Gandhi is emerging as the undoubted leader, getting down into the minutest affairs of the party at all levels. The first interference was that of calling all the PCC chief’s of the five states to resign. Moreover, she had held a meeting with Punjab MPs last week and listened to their analysis on the reasons for the party’s debacle in the State. Another interference that was quite clear was with respect to the sorting out a controversy between Thiruvanathapuram Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor and the Congress Chief in Kerala K Sudhakaran over attending a seminar organised by the CPI(M), on the sidelines of its party congress.
Moreover, the Congress chief was also seen dealing directly with the G23 leaders. She met Ghulam Nabi Azad, who leads the reformist group. Sonia also met Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari and Vivek Tankha, other prominent leaders of G23. Since these meetings, there have not been any fresh comments from the reformist group. Soon after the meeting, the G23 leaders mellowed their opposition and a temporary truce prevailed in the party. With Sonia Gandhi involving in all affairs, the detractors might have no say, it is again Gandhi Family.
REMOVAL OF LEADERSHIP
The present clamour for a leadership change makes one go back to 1998 when Sonia Gandhi took the reins of the party after removing then president Sitaram Kesri. The Congress Working Group sacked Kesri and installed Sonia in his place after the party’s defeat in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress had won 141 seats and the BJP 182 seats. Once Sonia took the hot seat of presidentship, it was only Sonia and Gandhi Family alone – Rahul and Priyanka- who led the party. The CWC was itself a mockery and the final decision was that of Sonia Gandhi. Despite the party suffering back-to-back Lok Sabha election defeats in 2014 and 2019, the CWC and all Congress stood behind Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Worst has now happened in the 2022 assembly elections in five states. In Uttar Pradesh, Congress was reduced to just two seats. The Congress that was in power in Punjab lost to Aam Aadmi Party this time. They could only bag 18 seats whereas it had 77 seats in 2017. Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur all saw the Congress defeat.
CONGRESS AND ‘GANDHI’ CLOUT
The reality for the party is that the leaders should think beyond the Gandhi Family. Party sources said that it is high time that the leaders come out of the clutches of the Gandhi Family. However, they point out that it was easy to say but quite impossible as the Gandhis would never walk out of their own as was quite evident in the coming back of Sonia Gandhi after the silence of 2022 defeat. Despite the Congress having stalwarts and more eminent leaders than the Gandhi’s, the party still revolves round the family concept. It is high time that the Congress finds ways to come out of this family business.