Monday, November 7, 2011

Sonia Returns to Find New Leadership_Prabhu Chawla/The Sunday Standard/November 06, 2011

Power & Politics

Recovered and Refreshed
Sonia Returns to find New Leadership

When Congress President Sonia Gandhi raises her eyebrows in the party, the Government goes into topspin. After convalescence, a rejuvenated Sonia has got back to basics. Those waiting to see her for months were shocked to receive phone calls from her office. Union ministers, chief ministers and allies were summoned to 10 Janpath for an exchange of views. Though most termed them courtesy calls, the short meetings meant business. Sonia was meeting regional party leaders and Central ministers like Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel and Dinesh Trivedi after months. She also met a few chief ministers and state Congress leaders. Since she has avoided attending formal meetings of the Congress Working Committee and the Core group, these visits left none in doubt that a massive restructuring of the party and the Government is imminent. According to insiders, the interaction was one-sided with the visitors eagerly apprising her of their problems. Many returned with the impression that a change in the top leadership of the Government and the party cannot be ruled out. The corridors of power vibrate with the fear of ministers and civil servants who keep discussing Sonia’s new mission and methods to retrieve UPA’s lost ground. With elections due in five important states in the next four months, she has to change the political discourse and agenda. Her concern is also to retain the allies who have been ignored by the Government and the party so far. Moreover, she has to redefine the contours of political architecture in a such way that Rahul and his team can walk in without fear of getting lost in the new structure.

Sonia isn’t doing anything unusual. She is only following the script written by her husband Rajiv Gandhi and mother-in-law Indira. Jawaharlal Nehru ensured his daughter would replace him. He promoted Indira as the most fearless Congress leader with a mind of her own, while other senior leaders were painted as conventional and conservative. She, in turn, introduced son Sanjay Gandhi, and then Rajiv as the face of Congress GenNext with the modern mind. She discarded those who could have challenged dynastic succession. All the Gandhis followed one golden rule—if the things go wrong in the party or the government, find the right time to strike back by finding the right scapegoat. This time, Sonia’s concern is the Government’s sagging image and a paralysed Congress.

In normal circumstances, the buck would have stopped with her. But of late, the impression is being created that she had little to do with governance and even less with party affairs, as she believes in delegation of power. She and her trusted advisers are convinced that the current Government leaders have little at stake in the party. With the majority of Cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, having crossed 70 years of age, none are bothered about the impact of their performance and the internal shenanigans on the party’s poll prospects.

With new leakages appearing in the rusted pipes of power, the Congress is the main target of the Opposition and civil society. Sonia’s concern seems to be that the party is being blamed for the Government’s sins. Earlier, her spin doctors were able to shift the blame on to the Government and plant stories in the media that the party’s views and the Government’s were not the same on petrol price hikes, the 2G scam, the CWG scandal and on confrontations with the Opposition and civil society. By writing letters to Anna Hazare directly, Sonia tried to distance herself from the actions of some Congress ministers. For many years, the Congress chief got credit for the good work done by the Government. But the blame on what went wrong was placed at the Prime Minister’s doorstep. Full credit is given to both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for RTI, MGNREGA, farmers’ loan write-offs, reservation for women and the minorities and other social welfare schemes. The Government is blamed for rising inflation and corruption. The loyalists’ whispering campaign is: ‘Ganga — the government— was dirty but Gangotri — the source —is absolutely pure.’

But now people are not willing to spare Sonia for the Government’s follies that they believe is hers. Team Anna has already announced if the Lokpal Bill is not passed this Winter Session, they will campaign against the Congress. Sonia’s options are limited. She has to project a new leader who has an alternative agenda for the poor and the middle class. Her challenge is to bring the focus back to aam aadmi. At the moment the Prime Minister and his A-Team are struggling to save the sinking Euro Zone and winning accolades abroad, leaving it to the Congress leadership to face the brickbats. Sonia’s latest Formula One model is aimed to reverse the slide.


chinmay said...

The old style functioning of congress whereby the first family is absolved of all wrongs and loyalists made scape goats is not going to work in an awakened india which has nuch information at hand thanks to the 24*7 media and increasingly politically concious people.Sonia may encounter no problems in installing prince rahul as the party chief but if he fails to deliver then the loyalists will themselves turn on him and bring dynasty to close

BK Chowla, said...

I have a simple basic question---Will ALL congressis accept Rahul as the chief, which includes Pranab,Chidambaram and many more