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Sonia gets cold feet, Congressmen worried

January 17, 2014 01:29 IST

Sonia gets cold feet, Congressmen worried

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Renu Mittal

Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s decision not to name Rahul Gandhi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate has demoralised the already-bruised cadre. Expect a stormy AICC session in New Delhi on Friday, says Renu Mittal

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in a classic display of over-cautiousness and over-protectiveness, has turned down the demand of the Congress Working Committee members to name Rahul Gandhi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate though it has been decided that he will lead the party’s election campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The party may make him the campaign committee chief, but this falls far short of what both the Congress workers and leaders have been demanding to give a fresh lease of life to a party.

The extended working committee meeting on Thursday evening came ahead of Friday’s All India Congress Committee meeting, where district presidents and party leaders from all over the country will assemble at Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium for a day-long session.

The session is taking place in the backdrop of a debilitating defeat of the Congress in four assembly states and in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections where the Bharatiya Janata Party has projected Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

Congress ranks are demoralised by the fact that Sonia has allowed Dr Singh to continue as the prime minister and the fact that the party leadership has failed to provide a strong political message in the midst of the ongoing confusion on what exactly the leadership wants to do.

It is expected that at the AICC meeting a number of voices would be heard demanding that Rahul be made the prime ministerial candidate. There is also likely to be a chorus for Dr Singh to make way for Rahul and that the latter should be installed as the prime minister before the Lok Sabha elections.

Whether the Congress leadership listens to this chorus and responds remains to be seen. 

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Renu Mittal

Rahul recently said that he was ready to do whatever the party wants.

The Congress vice president also said that he would be ready to be the prime ministerial candidate as well if that is what the party wants.

One line of thinking in the party is that as a mother Sonia has said no to her son being named the prime ministerial candidate. But if the party at the AICC meeting strongly demands that their voice be heard and that Rahul should be named, then she could bow before their wishes and say, so be it.

A senior leader said if this is not the scenario being envisaged, then there was no need for calling an AICC meeting.

He said that the leadership is aware there would be clamour to give a new face to the party leadership and the demand that Rahul be made the prime minister. So it makes sense for the party workers to do the talking and take an appropriate decision.

The Congress has never named a prime ministerial candidate and according to senior leader Janardhan Dwivedi “there is no convention of announcing the prime ministerial candidate. Rahul will head the elections. He is the future leader of the party”.

According to Dwivedi, Sonia said at the CWC meeting that “there is no need to project a PM candidate when we already have a PM. If the BJP projects a PM candidate, why should we also do so?”

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Renu Mittal

About 16 members, including Sonia and Rahul, spoke at the CWC meeting.

Dwivedi said that Rahul felt that people were trying to attack the Congress ideology and that he was committed to protect it.

While the leadership issue in the Congress has been settled with Rahul leading the party campaign for a third term in office, sources said that Sonia appears to have developed cold feet at the last minute and relied on the senior leaders of the party despite the fact that within the CWC meeting, almost all the leaders voiced their desire that Rahul should be named the prime ministerial candidate.

According to a senior leader, the fact that Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were not named and projected was immaterial since the situation was different then. The Congress was not pitted against an aggressive BJP nor was it flooded by charges of corruption or with a new party having captured the imagination of the nation.

New situations demand new solutions, said the leader who felt that the Congress leadership looked afraid to take risks.

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