Rahul Gandhi’s north-south politics remark has not just given the BJP a handle to accuse him of dividing the country, but has also exposed the deep divide within the Congress party. The group of 23 leaders, who had in August written to Sonia Gandhi, were waiting for a chance to hit out. They found an opportunity. Kapil Sibal said, “Voters must be respected no matter where they belong to.” While he did not name Rahul Gandhi, and also clarified that he wasn’t referring to any individual, the inference isn’t lost. Anand Sharma too said that it was best that Rahul Gandhi himself clarified what he meant.
But the younger leaders of the party, and those close to Rahul Gandhi, were quick to hit back. Some of them accused the group of 23 leaders of helping the BJP. They were asked to perform.
In fact, the anger within the group of 23, stems from the way Ghulam Nabi Azad was treated recently by the party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emotional outburst during Azad’s farewell speech made the party uneasy. But what upset those in the group of 23 was that the proposal to bring back Azad as an MP from Kerala was rejected.
Anand sharma, who still has a little over a year to go as a Rajya Sabha MP, was overlooked for the position of Leader of Opposition that went to Rahul’s favourite Mallikarjun Kharge. “Anandji could have been given this term for a year. This would have sent a message that Rahul Gandhi is reaching out to the old guard” said a member of the group of 23.
What is clear is that slowly Rahul Gandhi has created his own team in case he takes over the reins of the party. But even if he doesn’t, he has ensured that it’s his people, with whom he has an ease of working with, are the ones who will run the party. Rahul Gandhi has never been comfortable working with the seniors, but it has been mother Sonia Gandhi who has ensured that they continue. With the death of Ahmed Patel who maintained a link between the two generations within the party, it has been easy for Rahul Gandhi to ensure that his men are in control.
The rise of Randeep Surjewala and KC Venugopal, among others, has made many of these seniors uncomfortable. It came as a surprise to many when Surjewala was packed off to Chennai to begin seat sharing talks with the DMK. Azad, who has had good equations with southern parties, wasn’t considered. On the other hand, Bhupinder Hooda is clearly unhappy with this obvious promoting of his one time junior in the Haryana cabinet when Hooda was the CM. The Khattar government is shaky and the Hoodas are seen as the only ones who can help the Congress make a comeback. But the promotion of Surjewala and Kumari Shelja makes the Hoodas wonder whether they would be shortchanged in the end.
In kerla, its important for Rahul agndhi to ensure that his party wins as he is an MP from the state. Kerala sees a cyclical pattern in polls but for now pinarayi Vijayan isn’t suffering from strong anti incumbency. There too the rise and proximity of kc Venugopal is making many congress leaders like Ramesh chennithala and oomen chandy uncomfortable The worry is whether in case congress wins will rahul’s close aide kc Venugopal would be made the CM?
The congress was quick to do damagae control over the north south comment of Rahul Gandhi accusing the BJP of using its toolkit to divert attention and misquote Rahul Gandhi . But the story is developing within the congress . As state polls nears, the group of 23 are closely watching to see what the results will be. In case congress fares poor;y, for them it will be the moment to strike back. The party got a glimpse of what could happen in days to come through thwecomments of kapil sibal and anand sharma.