New Delhi: Amidst tumult and upsurge within a directionless and rudderless Congress, which has virtually been on auto pilot since the last Lok Sabha election, the leadership deficit that is costing the party dearly virtually every day, is once again grabbing centre-stage.
With several leaders deciding to reveal their hand and asking openly for clarity on who calls the shots in the party, the trifurcated leadership of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is only adding to the confusion.
Like last year’s shambolic leadership tussle which finally resulted in Congressmen asking Sonia Gandhi to become interim president to maintain status quo, a repeat cannot be ignored. The sham of picking a new president turned out to be a farce. Equally, at the same time, names of potential candidates for the job who have a buy-in from the family trinity that dominates the party’s discourse are being bandied about in a virtual action replay of last year’s hurly burly which resulted in the status quo.
Last time, the grapevine spoke of a Working President and regional Vice Presidents under him to reinvigorate the party. None of that happened as the party fell victim to its ‘family first’ thought process.
The names that are doing the rounds this time for Congress President are Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who has been in the wars recently and survived in the state, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, engaged in winning the crucial by-elections in his state, former leader of the Congress in the previous Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, as also Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and outliers like ex Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda and former Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari.
That the time has come for a non-Gandhi family loyalist to be appointed Congress President is now a given and this, to Rahul Gandhi’s credit, has been his call from the day the Lok Sabha debacle was known. Organisational elections and a revival of the rank and file of the party on the ground is a huge task which someone like Gehlot can set out to do, after all he was General Secretary (Organisation) for the party till the Congress won Rajasthan.
This will also pave the way for Sachin Pilot’s anointment in the state. Gehlot, it is understood, has the approval of both Ahmed Patel and Rahul Gandhi and may well be the consensus man. However, if the status quoists prevail once again and the ‘family first’ approach gains currency, a consensus may evolve on regional veeps to galvanise the party across the length and breadth of the country.
The election whirligig never ends in India and despite Covid-19, Bihar looms large on the radar followed by West Bengal, Punjab, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in April-May 2021. The grand old party remains in complete disarray and barring Punjab and Kerala, and to a lesser extent in Assam, has no presence whatsoever in the states that will go to the polls next year.
A viable opposition is essential for the lifeblood of bipolarity but a leadership deficit due to a reluctant prince running away from his coronation has kept the Congress in suspended animation. For the party to go beyond optics and the usual lip service, it is vital to show genuine inner party democracy and cut the umbilical cord from being merely a family enterprise. That moment may have arrived again but a rerun of last year will leave it further debilitated.