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Old Refrain

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Senior leaders of the Congress have written to interim Party President Sonia Gandhi to overhaul the system so that the decline in the party’s fortunes may be effectively checked. For this, they have sought a democratically chosen collective leadership that can deal with the issues. Of course, care has been taken not to question the paramountcy of the Gandhi family; otherwise they could well find themselves facing the fate of Sanjay Jha, who has been expelled for expressing similar sentiments. Theoretically, the Gandhis, too, have been asking for ‘reform’ and a more representative party, but most Congress members are aware of a deeper malaise which they are unwilling to express.

This has to do with the long sulking Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to take over the leadership and, along with it, the consequent accountability, but his continued behaviour as though he represents the Congress. What he is basically asking is that he would exercise absolute, unquestioned power if he condescends to become party president again – and shape it in his own image. Having witnessed his performance, thus far, it is reasonable for the party leaders to baulk at the prospect. Some feel that projecting Priyanka Gandhi, despite Robert Vadra as a liability, would satisfy the Gandhi egos, while giving the party a fresh start. It is believed, however, that Sonia Gandhi is unable to reconcile to such a rejection of her son. And where is the guarantee that he will not continue in the manner he is now, behaving as though he is the PM-in-waiting?

In essence, this is the problem the Congress has been facing from the time when Rahul Gandhi tore up an ordinance issued by the Manmohan Singh Government. The party is unwilling to surrender to his demands, but cannot build up the resolve to sideline the Gandhis. And to actually introduce a democratic structure would require destruction of the entire ethos upon which it has been built over the past couple of decades. Every faction within the party, right down to the gram panchayat level, functions on the basis of a projected ‘proximity’ to the High Command. One needs only to look at the goings on within the Uttarakhand unit of the party to see how many leaders are there with grassroots support holding decisive positions independent of the High Command. They can be counted on the fingers of one hand! The party’s history shows us that these are the ones that end up defecting to other parties.

It is only a matter of time before the opposition space the party enjoys will be surrendered to some opportunistic ‘upstart’ – such as the Aam Aadmi Party in Uttarakhand!