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Congress overhaul: Is Priyanka in?

By Rajeev Sharma
May 23, 2016 08:58 IST

Will Sonia Gandhi finally take a decision she has put off for so long, asks Rajeev Sharma.

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi pay homage to their father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, on his 25th death anniversary, at his memorial, May 21, 2016. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI

IMAGE: Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi pay homage to their father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, on his 25th death anniversary, at his memorial, May 21, 2016. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI

 

Forget surgery. But expect a shake up in the Congress this month -- and that too a major one.

Stung by yet another electoral reversal, the Congress high command -- read, the Gandhis -- is under pressure to act and, more importantly, be seen as acting.

As part of this exercise, the Congress Working Committee will meet very soon to authorise party President Sonia Gandhi to effect a much needed overhaul. The Congress party looks set to bring in sweeping changes at the level of secretaries and general secretaries.

The biggest gamble being considered among party strategists is whether to bring Priyanka Gandhi in the organisational set-up formally and entrust her with some role, either as a secretary or as a general secretary.

Her brother Rahul had a stint as party general secretary from September 25, 2007 to January 19, 2013, before his elevation as vice-president.

Many insiders feel it is not a question of if, but when where Priyanka is concerned. It is to be seen if the Congress president finally decides this issue in the next few days or once again puts it on the back burner where it has been for several years.

The Priyanka puzzle has been plaguing the Congress leadership for quite some time and though the need for this move was never greater than it is now, senior leaders are still not sure about the perfect time for making this mega move.

1. If Priyanka is not drafted in right now, then when?

If she is brought in now, won't it be seen as a vote of no confidence in her brother's leadership even if she were to be given a lesser role in the party?

But if the party cadres' sentiments are ignored yet again and Priyanka's induction into the party's organisational structure is deferred, won't it put a dampener on whatever changes are eventually announced and make these changes look like yet another cosmetic exercise signifying little?

2. If Priyanka is indeed roped in, should this be cleared first by the CWC (a mere formality) and left to the party president to make a formal announcement or should the matter be brought before the All India Congress Committee plenary session, a much bigger and grander platform?

Rahul was elevated as party vice-president at the AICC plenary session in Jaipur in January 2013, so shouldn't a similar platform be made available to Priyanka?

3. Conversely, won't it make better sense to induct Priyanka into the party's organisational structure in a low-key manner, particularly when Priyanka herself is known to have decided not to rock her brother's boat and do nothing that may be even remotely interpreted as sibling rivalry?

Whatever the Congress leadership decides, one thing looks increasingly plausible -- that Priyanka's role in party affairs will be more pro-active.

Indications are that she will be involved in the party's campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, due in less than nine months.

Priyanka may or may not be projected as the Congress' chief ministerial candidate in UP, but she will be a star campaigner for her party in the most politically significant state.

And, of course, she won't be confined to Amethi and Rae Bareilli only, her brother and mother'sLok Sabha constituencies respectively. She will travel the entire state.

Though the Congress leadership is mulling sweeping changes in the AICC at the levels of general secretaries and secretaries, these changes won't be 'sweeping' if Priyanka is not given a formal role in the party, perhaps in charge of elections.

Rajeev Sharma
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