Sonia Gandhi’s decisive and bold action against ‘Dissenters’ in Congress will go a long way in establishing her supremacy and authority which has been directly or indirectly challenged by 23 senior leaders who projected themselves as ‘Reformists’ but situation resembled partially to an identical scenario in 1969 when late Indira Gandhi had crushed a strong ‘Syndicate Coterie’(Oldies) to teach them a lesson.
Political analysts opine that there may not be full similarities in two situations of Indira Gandhi in 1969 and Sonia Gandhi in 2020, that too after a gap of 51 years but one thing is identical i.e. latter’s leadership has been challenged by these senior loyalists in a ‘veiled manner’ by pinpointing that mandatory steps must be taken to revitalize and energize the party hence suggested measures.
Six years after the party’s electoral rout pushed Congress into a continuing downward spiral, hence twenty three senior leaders of the party including five former Chief Ministers, many Congress Working Committee members, sitting MPs, and several former Union Ministers had in an unprecedented pushback, recently sent a controversial letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi calling for sweeping changes, from top to bottom.
Analysts feel that Sonia Gandhi’s prestige was at stake as dissenters had opted for publicity in newspapers and TV channels instead of meeting her individually to suggest reforms especially when they enjoyed her trust and patronage for decades.
Secondly, the letter sent a wrong signal to nationwide party cadres and leaders who are already facing an inertia and demoralization after complete rout of Congress in 2019 parliamentary polls.
Thirdly, Sonia Gandhi was responsible for reviving the party and bringing it back to power in 2004 and 2009 hence such unprecedented action was deemed as a ‘Silent Revolt’ against leadership for not taking appropriate steps to introduce obligatory reforms.
Fourthly, some of the senior dissenters remained adamant on their stand that it was not against Sonia Gandhi and they had made suggestions in the interest of the organization.
Fifthly, Rahul Gandhi’s extreme reaction of dubbing it as a weapon beneficial to BJP led to a furor and tumult as senior loyalists like Gulam Nabi Azad offered to resign and Kapil Sibal reacted strongly on Twitter who was pacified by the former national president himself.
Sixthly, it was perceived as a veiled attack on Rahul Gandhi who is bound to take over reigns of party in near future. It was a fight between old and new generational leaders mainly Rahul loyalists who held inefficient ministers , corruption, mis- governance, lack of accountability etc responsible for plaguing Manmohan Singh’s 2nd term.
On the contrary, oldies blamed young leadership for defeat of the party in assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the country.
Acting President , however, gave no inclination of her annoyance and wrath during CWC meeting which witnessed Rahul’s fireworks against seniors in the party.
Reshuffle was already on cards but volatile situation warranted to show these dissenters their place especially when the majority of them are rootless and hardly enjoy any mass base in their respective states. They have been ruling roost due to their closeness to high command.
Being a silent spectator and not an aggressor due to her nature, Sonia Gandhi gave the cursor of events to unfold in organization when she wasted no time in announcing seven committee for the polls in UP—an attempt to send a message, particularly to its rank and file, that the party was serious about the key heartland state which goes to polls in 2021. Big names from Uttar Pradesh, such as Jitin Prasada, Raj Babbar and RPN Singh were excluded from the committees, one of which was tasked with drawing the UPA manifesto.
But in revamping Prasda and Singh have figured as Rahul loyalists. It was quickly followed up with another jolt to dissenters as Sonia Gandhi formed two groups of party leaders to ensure the smooth functioning of parliamentary proceedings in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha once the Monsoon session reconvenes.
One thing is certain that leaders loyal to former party president, Rahul Gandhi were rewarded with plump posts within these two newly-formed groups while dissident leaders were sidelined . While the Rajya Sabha team has Congress party’s General Secretary in-charge of Organization KC Venugopal who is considered close to Rahul Gandhi, the Lok Sabha panel is dominated by four of Gandhi’s lieutenants.
Sonia Gandhi’s key decision was aimed at giving a clear signal to the 23 dissidents who signed a letter thereby seeking an overhaul of the party’s organizational structure.
The issues highlighted included a mood of “fear” and insecurity amongst people, BJP and Sangh Parivar’s “communal and divisive agenda,” economic recession, ballooning unemployment, hardships caused by the pandemic, challenges on the border, including the standoff with China and the drift in foreign policy.
Their letter called for a sweeping range of reforms, decentralization of power and empowerment of state units, elections to the Congress organization at all levels, from the block to the CWC and the urgent constitution of a Central parliamentary board.
Interim President, Sonia Gandhi has clearly side-lined those leaders in revamping who over estimated their weightage and could have created hurdles and problems for Rahul Gandhi whenever he takes over as permanent president of the party.
Rahul’s team is back with bang which include leaders like Randeep Surjewala, Madhusudan Mistry, Bhanwar Jitendera Singh, Mukul Wasnik, Jitin Prasada, Venugopal etc.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had rebelled against party interim chief Sonia Gandhi at the recent Congress Working Committee meating, has been divested of the post of the general secretary and parked in CWC as member alongwith Anand Sharma. Azad, who was in charge of Haryana, has also been replaced by Vivek Bansal.
The biggest gainer from the reshuffle is Rahul Gandhi loyalist Randeep Surjewala, who has been inducted in the high-power six-member panel that advises the Congress president. However, Jitin Prasada has received a promotion despite being a signatory on the controversial letter. He has been appointed as the in-charge for West Bengal, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
A new addition, Pawan Kumar Bansal will be the secretary in charge administration and other Rahul loyalists have been accommodated including Harish Rawat – General Secretary in-charge Punjab, Tariq Anwar, in-charge for Kerala and Lakshadweep, Jitendra Singh in-charge Assam, and Oommen Chandy in-charge for Andhra Pradesh.
Analysts are debating the dropping of senior leader, Asha Kumari from the post of Incharge of Punjab affairs of party, having close ties with Punjab CM, Captain Amrinder Singh, who would have favored her retention as both were functioning in tandem. But Observers opined that Sidhu factor might have worked in ousting her as Priyanka Gandhi was reportedly keen to prevent him from leaving Congress at all costs who may be projected as chief ministerial candidate in 2022 assembly elections.
At one stage Sidhu was certain to leave Congress due to his sharp differences with Punjab CM but high command held him back though his detractors have got different argument that he had no place to go specially when he had left BJP in a bad taste.
Sources revealed that Asha Kumari had requested Sonia Gandhi six months back to relieve her of the charge as she wants to focus on Himachal politics and her assembly segment. Keeping in view her experience and successful stint in Punjab, she may get an important assignment which can become a reality in view of her closeness to high command.
Some senior sidelined leaders are having reservations about entry of new entities in AICC as they have been conveniently positioned in CWC which does not meet frequently and devoid of contributing in day to day decisions and formulation of policies but they can’t dare to challenge Rahul Gandhi who shall be next top power centre in the party and he has been main architect of new Reshuffle in grand old party.
New members of the Congress Working Committee will be – Digvijay Singh, Rajiv Shukla, Manickam Tagore, Pramod Tiwari, Jairam Ramesh, HK Patil, Salman Khurshid, Pawan Bansal, Dinesh Gundurao, Manish Chatrath and Kuljit Nagra, all Rahul’s protégés.
Following the departure of Jyotiraditya Scindia, high command has brought in Digvijai Singh from MP but Sachin Pilot is missing from new team which indicates his induction in Gehlot government.
Apart from Azad, Ambika Soni, Motilal Vora and Mallikarjun Kharge have also been removed from their posts of AICC general secretaries. However, Ambika Soni has been included in the special committee formed to assist Sonia Gandhi in organizational matters.
Other special committee members include AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, KC Venugopal and Mukul Wasnik, apart from Ambika Soni and Randeep Surjewala.
If we look at Sonia’s action then it did resemble Indira Gandhi decision to establish her Authority in 1969 which pertained to the presidential elections held in 1969 which she lacked. However Sonia is in full command and never faced challenge from these dissenters but Rahul Gandhi factor might have encouraged these leaders to send a letter to Sonia Gandhi who has nipped the evil in the bud.
Now the major fallout of the reshuffle seems to be focused on strengthening Rahul Gandhi’s hands prior to his official takeover of the reign of the party.
Rahul is considered as the strongest critic of Modi government in Congress and his mettle will be tested in Bihar and West Bengal assembly elections. BJP is striving hard to oust Mamta Banerjee and it will never allow fall of Nitish Kumar in Bihar where stakes are very high for NDA.
Disclaimer : PunjabTodayTV.com and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors’ right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabTodayTV.com or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.
Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.
— Team PT