For the past few days, a handful of Congress leaders have been preparing for the Congress Working Committee meeting. It’s to be a departure from recent past and instead of Zoom, it will now be using WebEx for video conferencing the meet to tide over the fear of hacking. The last time Sonia Gandhi met Rajya Sabha MPs, the incident left a bad experience. So this time, the Congress is taking no chances and the ID for the meeting will be given to the participants just before it begins.
Ironically, the fear of leak or hacking is not from China, Pakistan or even the BJP. It’s from within the party as the Congress faces a crisis of leadership and voices that were silent or reticent till now have started becoming vocal. At such a time, the last thing the top Congress leadership would want is for their internal strife to be made public.
However, the change in the means of conducting the meeting cannot put a lid on the crisis that the CWC could address. The biggest problem remains that of leadership. Most leaders in private and, some publicly, have complained that Congress has lost its steam; that it cannot fight the Modi juggernaut and the listlessness means soon Congress could be eased out of the national narrative. Apart from many leaving the party, those who stayed behind and are with the Congress often wonder what’s happening.
Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari and Rajiv Satav are a few who have raised their voice against this.
The problem before Sonia Gandhi remains the reluctance of Rahul Gandhi to take charge. When recently, a year-old interview of Priyanka Vadra to a book surfaced in which she said she agreed with her brother on a non-Gandhi Congress president, there were alarm bells in the party. The Congress officially made a statement to say the old interview was being used to push an agenda and party workers and leaders accept Rahul Gandhi as their leader.
At the CWC, it’s quite possible more voices may come up asking for Rahul Gandhi to take charge as it’s clear that Sonia Gandhi wants to hand over the reins. But what if he remains adamant? There is a proposal in place which could be implemented.
There could be appointment of more than two vice-presidents to assist Sonia Gandhi. This is to address the concern that Congress needs a full-time president. But such an appointment could also ensure that Gandhis remain in control and the party continues to be headed by one of them, in this case Sonia Gandhi. Names which are doing the rounds are of Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram and Mallikarjun Kharge, but it’s quite possible that young leaders could be propped up.
This apart, many new faces could be brought in for key posts and most of them are perceived to be close to Rahul Gandhi. Sushmita Dev and Manickam Tagore are some names doing the rounds.
It would also be interesting to see whether Sachin Pilot is brought to the centre. While Pilot has made it clear that he sees Rajasthan as his ‘karam bhumi’ and CM Ashok Gehlot doesn’t want to leave the state yet, the Congress leadership could bring in Pilot to buy time till the committee submits its report.
The caveat for all this is, of course, that the Congress needs to have the urge to solve this turmoil. For now, the restlessness becomes tough to ignore. Some like Jitin Prasada have formed a Brahmin Samaj and this is to capitalise on the 12% Brahmin vote bank which his party doesn’t seem to be concentrating on. Clearly, he wants to ensure that his politics stays alive.
Few others who don’t want to leave the Congress are looking at ways to stay relevant. But the list of disillusioned leaders is long and growing, and many of these have at one point been influential or important in the scheme of things such as Milind Deora, Veerappa Moily, Anand Sharma, Ashwini Kumar, Salman Khurshid.
Some chose to leave the party, like Jyotiraditya Scindia, some fought back and continue to do so like Sachin Pilot. But as new leaders are being propped up and Rahul Gandhi has his favourites, many feel left out and yet, want to stay in the party. The CWC brings some hope to them that things could change. But will the Congress and CWC once again shy away from taking a decision?