Rahul to lead Congress from front in 2019 poll

The Crown Prince of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, has reached the last lap of becoming the party president as early as December 5 uncontested, a day after he presents his nomination papers to the party’s election office. His leadership has been endorsed by all State units of the Congress. The Election Commission has already suggested that the party should complete its process of internal elections by the end of the year.

 Rahul Gandhi appeared to be pleased even as he is well prepared and organized to face challenges, especially the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections and steer the party to face the 2019 General Election.  The party, which has been around for more than a hundred years, has made several gains with the young people in local body elections and campuses in northern India.

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, as leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party, is expected to be the chief patron of the party. At the CWC meeting on November 20, she looked to be the most pleased person about the succession decision being taken unanimously. Dr. Manmohan Singh, sitting next to her, looked somewhat sombre.

On December 19 the party’s election process is expected to be completed. Has the old generation, visible in the Congress Working Committee, finally decided to hand over the reins of the party, to the new much younger leadership? Has it opted for a member of the Gandhi family yet once more after Jawaharlal Nehru, Rahul’s great grandfather, became Congress president for the first time in the year 1928? But Motilal Nehru was his immediate predecessor. Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi have successively held the high office.

 Did the Congress have any option other than Rahul Gandhi? Will he try to balance the party leadership with a mix of the old and new generation? It might answer these questions by saying that the Gandhi family will not be running the party’s affairs from day to day even if its decisions on crucial issues will continue to be taken by it. Another question being asked is about the Congress being able to make a mark in the 17 States, due to go to the polls to elect new legislative assemblies in 2018 and 2019?

Will the Congress be able to stand up to the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and regional parties’ leaders in the States where the Congress and BJP do not have a strong foot print? Is the Congress arguing that Rahul Gandhi has been trying to prove his mettle in the past four years since he became its vice-president? He may not have been too successful, but in the current year the Congress and Opposition vote share has gone up even if it does not show in the number of States and seats won? At present BJP and its allies rule 17 States while the Congress rules six States.

Does the Congress move to choose a new party president from the Gandhi family show that its unity is dependent on such a decision? Rahul Gandhi could be expected to be declared the only candidate for the office by December11, by when scrutiny of the nomination papers and some other processes could be completed. Has it been a long wait for Rahul after he became the vice-president of the Congress even as this office gave him a big say in the party affairs, with his and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s advisers being consulted most of the time, if not all  the time, on key issues?

On November 20, a day after the birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi, the Congress Working Committee, met to set the ball rolling for the formal election of the new supreme leader of the party. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has held that office for almost 20 years after she decided to call it a day. One of the reasons is said to be the somewhat poor health she has had to cope with; finally she has reached the decision to lay down the office that could have been rather taxing.

At the CWC meeting Mr. Rahul Gandhi looked confident and happy on being asked to shoulder the responsibility of running the party. The Working Committee went about setting a time table for the election of its new top leader by announcing the dates for the presentation of nomination papers for the office and date of election. It would have seen to it, prior to the Monday morning’s announcement that Mr. Rahul Gandhi is already an elected member of the All-India Congress Committee, a possible requirement for the office under the party’s constitution. The CWC appears to have taken pains to see that proper procedures should be followed.

Although the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah leadership has been quite conspicuous on the Indian political scene for more than three and a half years, the Congress feels that Rahul Gandhi is beginning to make an impact with his forceful public speeches and on the social media now.

 

Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.