Usually, bystanders have no business to poke their nose in a relationship between a mother and her son, as it is supposed to be their family affair. But when, the mother is Sonia Gandhi and the son Rahul Gandhi, and their family affairs bound to impact the dynamics of politics in the world’s largest democracy, intervention becomes essential.
In these sensitive times, when the communal forces are hell-bent on polarising the country on issues like the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Congress could have emerged from the opposition benches as a binding force for the much-needed harmony. After all, the grand old party is largely known for its secular values. The Congress, however, is not only losing voice and power, but also actually crumbling like a house of cards.
In the latest, one of the trump cards has quit the party. On March 9, 2020, Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the Congress, ending his nearly two-decade-long association with the party. This came soon after he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Rahul’s political discord with his mother Sonia seems like that of the old guards versus Young Turks. (File photo: Reuters)
The 49-year-old former parliamentarian from Guna in Madhya Pradesh, who lost the previous Lok Sabha election is being termed by many of his critics as “an opportunist who left for greener pastures” along with 22 MLAs (at the last count). But then, there is more to it than meets the eye.
It is true that neither the Congress in general nor Scindia, in particular, could win the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But, the infighting within the Congress since then is proving more disastrous for the party than the defeat in those elections.
Unable to bear that loss, which reduced the Congress party to mere 52 seat tally, Rahul Gandhi had resigned from the party presidentship. But then, did Rahul need to resign? In an election where the voters voted for someone supporting Mahatma Gandhi’s assassinator in very same Scindia’s Madhya Pradesh, Rahul shouldn't have opted for his self-condemnation. At a time when the Congress was struggling to reconsolidate, Rahul’s move to quit as the captain was expected to be suicidal. And, it only proved to be one.
I was one of the fortunetellers. On June 18, 2019, in my opinion piece in DailyO, I had cautioned that if Rahul remained adamant on his resignation, someday his close aides — especially Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia — would quit the party. I hope and pray that my prediction goes wrong, at least vis-à-vis Pilot.
While numerous reasons are being attributed to Scindia quitting the Congress to join the Bharatiya Janta Party, I blame the Nehru-Gandhi family for the mess. Rahul’s political discord with his mother Sonia seems like that of the old guards versus Young Turks. And, this is an open secret that is often reported by the media. Even otherwise, a clash between supporters of Rahul and Sonia cannot be seen as a sign of synergy among two generations of leaders from the same family, same home and same party.
As per the report published in India Today on October 4, 2019, chinks in team Rahul began appearing in December 2018 itself after the party won assembly polls in Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Despite Rahul having pitched for young guns like Pilot and Scindia, the party’s old guard had managed to seize CM posts. After 2019 debacle, Rahul’s resignation left his young team to fend for themselves, triggering resignations and furious outbursts.
Despite Rahul rooting for young guns like Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the party’s old guard and Sonia's loyalists seized CM posts in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. (File photo: Getty Images)
One such symptom was visible even before the Lok Sabha elections. In April 2019, a few days after taking a song-jibe at Union Minister Smriti Irani over her qualification, the then-Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi resigned from the party. She resigned a day after airing her grievance about the party “bringing back some leaders who had misbehaved with her”. Shortly afterwards, she joined the Shiv Sena.
Priyanka’s resignation was self-explanatory that her quitting the Congress (not to join BJP) was not about greener pastures but essentially about self-respect. The same seems to be true for Scindia. In his resignation, he reminded Sonia of the “path that has been drawing itself out for the last one year.”
A four-time MP from Madhya Pradesh, who could neither get the post of president of the state chapter nor the Chief Ministerial post, must have felt hurt and unheard. A perceivable insult to injury may have remained Rahul’s resignation and absence, leaving leaders like Scindia helpless. After all, it was Scindia who defended Rahul in June 2018 over the Congress president’s wink in the Parliament, asking media to focus on issues like farmer suicides and rapes instead.
But times have changed. Rahul is no more conspicuous for his winks, or even for his presence. His role now looks confined to proverbial guest-appearances. From a whirlwind tour of riot-hit northeast Delhi to his hasty-campaign for the recent assembly polls in the state, Rahul’s role looked limited to guest appearances. On the whole, he has often been missing from the scene when the party needed the most.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi as the Congress president was not that bad a choice. Rather, I believe that he was the best bet. Overriding the 'Modi wave' in the Hindi heartland, it was his leadership that had brought the Congress to power in three key states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Experienced Sonia Gandhi, on the other hand, has her style of leadership. When Congress was a sinking ship in 1998, it was her leadership which made the party inspire for a bounce back. In 2004, the Congress went on to form the government in coalition under her command, and retained power for two consecutive terms.
Like everything else, the mother-son duo has its own merits and demerits. Wisdom demands that both synergise their political positives for the sake of the party. The Congress is dying but it is still not dead. It is high time for the Nehru- Gandhi family to introspect that Indira and Rajiv Gandhi did not sacrifice their lives only to see the Congress die a humiliating death. Even Priyanka needs to realise her role in such matters. For starters, she does not need approval from the Congress Working Committee to resolve family issues which are ultimately ruining the party.
If immediate measures are not taken, the day is not far off when Sonia, Rahul or Priyanka, or even all three of them, may quit the Congress. And, getting an offer from BJP for them is only secondary.