Late evening Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi announced the formation of a committee which will study and work the strategy of the party on ordinances. But the significance of the committee lies not in its formation, but in the names and the message it wants to send out -- that the Grand Old Party will move on without addressing the concerns raised by those who wrote a letter seeking an “active and visible leadership”. Each name chosen also has a purpose and messaging.
Let’s begin with P Chidambaram -- one of the few leaders who was visited by Sonia Gandhi, Manmoahn Singh and Rahul Gandhi when he was in jail. Chidambaram has returned in full form in the party’s affairs and is also being speculated to become one of the possible vice-presidents or committee members to aid and advise Sonia Gandhi.
Chidambaram carries with him strong economic credentials and is a legal luminary as well. Chidambaram’s choice is being seen from the perspective of the other lawyer in the party who is now not so much in favour -- Kapil Sibal.
Sibal was one of the 23 signatories to the letter. In fact, Sibal continued his veiled attacks on the Congress even a day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting and wrote on Twitter, “When fighting for principles in life, in politics, in law, amongst social activists on social media platforms, opposition is often voluntary, support is often managed”.
The dig at the CWC meeting where a group of 23 senior leaders were attacked cannot be missed here. However, Chidambaram, the lawyer, will be seen as a counter to Sibal, the lawyer, who has fought many cases pro bono for his party, the most recent being the Rajasthan crisis.
The other big entrant is Digvijaya Singh. Post the Madhya Pradesh crisis, many thought his career was over politically, as he along with Kamal Nath were seen as being responsible for the departure of Jyotiraditya Scindia. But it is clear that Singh is back in full form. It is a lesson to the letter writers that some follies can be forgiven, but to be seen as questioning the might of the Gandhis cannot be overlooked ever. It is a dig and message to Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, who are Singh’s contemporaries.
Next comes Jairam Ramesh who has been made the convenor of the committee. A leader who many thought has been left out in the cold with his Rajya Sabha tenure about to come to an end. Ramesh, like Sharma, has been used for his meticulous notes. An important participant of the winning 2004 Congress campaign of ‘Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath’, Ramesh has of late maintained a low profile.
However, his return into this committee is being seen as a snub to Sharma and also the message that Sonia Gandhi continues to trust him
Then comes Dr Amar Singh, a former IAS officer and MP from Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab. Dr Amar Singh was principle secretary to Digvijaya Singh when he was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Dr Singh had raised the issue of ordinances in the Lok Sabha during Zero Hour and his appointment is seen as a snub to the other high profile MP from Punjab but who is now being looked down upon for being one of the signatories -- Manish Tewari.
Then there is Gaurav Gogoi who many say is the rising star. In-charge of the upcoming elections in West Bengal, Gogoi is close to Rahul Gandhi and proficient in both Hindi and English. However, more importantly his appointment is seen as a snub and message to the other savvy letter writers -- Jitin Prasada and Shashi Tharoor. Prasada incidentally shared the same proximity to Rahul Gandhi which Gogoi now enjoys.
The committee has the stamp of both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, but more significant message is that that you need to be on the right side and not write letters if you want to be in the good books.