Rama Krishna Sangem
The crisis that erupted in the Congress party after its poor show in 5 state assembly elections has blown over, for now. Once appeared to lead to a split in the party, the situation is now just a bargaining battle – between the G 23 leaders and the high command led by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. There will be some small changes in the organisation to accommodate the demands of these “change seekers”.
The “routine visit” by G-23 leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to 10 Jan Path last week indicated many things. That Azad has now backed out of his rebel role which his colleagues Kapil Sibal and others sought. Sonia has agreed to accommodate Azad as in charge of Karnataka where Congress has chances of coming to power early next year (Of course, there are other offers to Azad which we will discuss later). L
Initially, Kapil Sibal and a few within the G -23 demanded that Gandhis should step down from the leadership of Congress and hand over the organisation to “others” (non-Gandhis). After a few days later, they suggested that Rahul can be the leader Congress in Lok Sabha, but the president post can be given to someone else.
Now, these rebel leaders are only talking about “collective leadership” means a say in the party affairs – like appointment of in charge general secretaries and in allotment of tickets to party candidates in the poll bound states and in future for MP elections too. We know, that in Congress culture, getting a B Form (ticket) involves lot many behind the scene pulls and pressures, besides huge bribes.
Only those who can please the PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) presidents and in charge general secretaries or secretaries will get a ticket to contest the elections. In states like Telangana, aspirants are willing to pay more than a Rs 2 crore for a ticket, that too months in advance. So, these organisational posts are in great demand in Congress. If the party comes to power, they call the shots.
Sonia Stands Strong
The reason for G-23 leaders backing off from the confrontation with the high command is Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to heed to their pressure tactics. Sonia knows the real strength of leaders like Kapil Sibal on the ground. For that matter, even Azad is a beneficiary of this general secretaries culture, patronized by the high command for the last several decades. He is known for his loyalties to Gandhis.
Leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Bhupender Hooda are not exactly rebels. They want to protect their contacts everywhere. Now that Sonia and Rahul are strong, such leaders will be with them. The resolutions passed by PCC of Telangana supporting Sonia, Rahul has put off G-23 leaders. Most of Karnataka leaders are with Sonia, Rahul.
Even in UP, there is none other than Priyanka to work for Congress. That is the reason, persons like Khurshid Alam Khan are siding with Gandhis. A majority of Congress leaders known well that without Gandhis at the helm, the party cannot survive. No one in public recognizes a Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress leader in Rajya Sabha) or an Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (leader in Lok Sabha).
Test for Rebels
Even if an outsider like Sitaram Kesri becomes Congress president, it may be a stop gap arrangement till Gandhis take over again. If persons like Kapil Sibal or Azad take over as the party president, Congress may well become another CPI, a political obscurity.Anyway, Congress organisational elections will be held in a few months, so these rebel leaders can test their strength.
These factors made G-23 leaders realize their limited scope of maneuverability in the party in the present circumstances. We don’t know how things will unfold if Congress fails in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisghar and Telangana in the coming months, before 2024 LS elections. Until then, Gandhis will be the party high command.