Congress is stuck at the crossroads; has to move forward or wither further

Fatima Hasan

Every now and then when there is election time or when there is hot debate over important issues of the day, the Congress leadership hits the headlines. And whenever it is talk about who will take over the Congress leadership after Sonia Gandhi, then it is always a choice between the Dynasty and ‘non-family’ members and the speculation over Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi continues.

But one thing is clear: whoever becomes the Congress president from outside the Gandhi family will also act as a proxy of Gandhi dynasty members. Now, when we look for other options from among Congress Working Committee (CWC) members, we can first talk about Manmohan Singh as a presidential face. However, during his tenure as prime minister, he was criticized for being just a mouth piece of the Gandhis. So, if he becomes the party chief, then he will be a blatant puppet. 

Ghulam Nabi Azad
Randeep Surjewala

When we view Ghulam Nabi Azad’s credentials, he can be looked at as having good potential for presidentship. His profile as Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha holds goodwill for him and he also has experience of active participation in the party affairs since 1970s.  Randeep Surjewala, the present party spokesperson, can also be elevated to the rank of president. He was the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana under the Congress rule in that state. His father’s political career can also act as goodwill but one has to think about his potential to command the party all over the country.   

MS Education Academy
Mallikarjun Kharge

For some time now, Mallikarjun Kharge’s name has been doing rounds as the best bet to replace Sonia as party chief. When we consider his name, he seems to have good potential being a veteran but his age could be a factor against him.  Congress now needs a young president who will take the party to greater heights within the next decade and someone to serve as the head for a continuous term. 

With a long span of association with the Congress, A K Antony,  as the ex-chief minister and former union minister having held high posts in the AICC twice, can be appointed as party president, but his association with a splinter group of INC back in 1975 might become  a reason for intra-party criticism and fights at a later date. 

Ahmed Patel

Further, as the Number-2 powerful figure in Congress, Ahmed Patel can also serve as the president. He can be elevated to the top rank from his present position of AICC treasurer. During the Congress rule for a decade (2004-2014), Patel was one among the troubleshooters between the government and the party.

Then, there will arise a pitch of criticism in the CWC taking his proximity to the Family as the reason. So, the rank and file of the party are bound to collide if a member from among themselves is given the higher rank. The current dissent within the party that Congress needs to revamp under a great leader and that the party should choose a  permanent  president  will all fall in place when either Priyanka or Rahul takes the reigns of the party. And even if Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka takes over, then still Sonia will at least have to act as a patron for few more years. The back hand has to be there always.

The Congress has fought general elections under Rahul in 2019 and the party lost to BJP for the second time. Even then, Rahul Gandhi could not have been ‘Pappu’ but for the U-turn that he took immediately after losing by quitting as the party president.  This raised questions over his leadership qualities. 

On the other hand, if we think of utilizing the ‘girl power,’ Priyanka Gandhi, aptly called the replica of Indira Gandhi, actually poses good potential to head the party. But the negative factor is her husband, Robert Vadra, who has his hands embroiled in corruption. In 2019, Priyanka formally entered politics, taking charge as the general secretary of eastern Uttar Pradesh. She has positive qualities and she can be made the heir to succeed Sonia. This can happen only when the Mom is interested.

After Rajiv Gandhi’s death, Sonia slowly but surely took the reins of power in the party and the question now is who in the CWC or the States possesses such potential. And as the suggestions and protests pour in, it will be better if Rahul again takes the mantle from interim president and presides over the party with full responsibility and patience.

Congress is now at a point where it faces high risks and the one who actually takes over the party leadership has to bring it to the level playing ground with a strong presence in all the states. Then, it will also not matter even if a non-Gandhi takes over as president a few years later. Anyone who becomes Congress chief will have to draw a new road map and get the party re-rooted in the country. 

Fatima Hasan is a Hyderabad based journalist

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