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Is Sonia's love for Rahul hurting Congress?

June 28, 2019 08:52 IST
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Sonia Gandhi's prime ministerial ambition for her son has been a major factor in the Congress's internal politics since 2004, points out Amulya Ganguli.

IMAGE: Priyanka Vadra, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. Photograph: Atul Yadav/PTI Photo

Dynasticism isn't the Congress's only problem.

Even more damaging is a mother's love for her son.

It is Sonia Gandhi's prime ministerial ambition for her son Rahul, which has been a major factor in the Congress's internal politics since 2004.

The latest example of this feature is the relatively unknown Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's nomination by the Congress as the party's leader in the Lok Sabha.

Although he made a reasonably effective speech, except for the faux pas about the prime minister which had to be expunged, it will be a miracle if the 'local strong man', as he has been called, from Berhampore outshines another newcomer to the House, the former investment banker and now Trinamool Congress MP, Mahua Moitra, who listed in her highly impressive maiden speech the seven signs of fascism which can be seen in the BJP's functioning.


The reason why Chowdhury may falter is that he lacks Moitra's academic/intellectual background.

As a street fighter, like Moitra's leader, Mamata Banerjee, Chowdhury can give as good as he gets even if he ventures close to the red lines on expunction.

But he doesn't have the flair which two other contenders for the party leader's post -- Manish Tiwari and Shashi Tharoor -- have.

Nor, perhaps, their familiarity with national and international history and ideology which is indispensable when dealing with the Hindutva lobby.

Arguably, if Tiwari and Tharoor were overlooked, the reason was Sonia Gandhi's fear that they will either be able to match Rahul's presentations in the House or even occasionally outdistance him.

It was a challenge which the previous leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, somehow did not pose although he was not a pushover as a speaker.

Sonia Gandhi's fear is a legacy of a similar apprehension on Indira Gandhi's part that the rise of an effective challenger in the provinces will gradually undercut her influence.

If Jawaharlal Nehru was compared to a banyan tree under which nothing grows, the reason was that there were few in the Congress who could measure up to his stature after the death of Vallabhbhai Patel and the departure from the Congress of Jayaprakash Narayan, J B Kripalani and others.

It was different in Indira's case, for the one-time goongi gudiya (dumb doll) never really shed her inferiority complex about the influential regional satraps.

Where Sonia is concerned, it is the protective cover which she likes to throw around Rahul which made her undermine Manmohan Singh when she realised that the prime minister was gaining ground because of the economic reforms and the India-US nuclear deal, which enabled the Congress to increase its tally of seats from 145 in 2004 to 206 in 2009.

Having tried unsuccessfully to scuttle the nuclear deal by arguing that the Communists had a point in their opposition, Sonia next tried to whittle down the reforms on the advice of her kitchen cabinet, the national advisory council comprising crypto-Communists, one of whom, Aruna Roy, bemoaned the prime minister's emphasis on growth.

Narendra Damodardas Modi picked up the ball on growth dropped by the Congress and ran away with it.

The Congress, on its part, is now wondering whether it will ever reach three figures in the Lok Sabha.

It may if everyone in the party is allowed to grow in accordance with his or her talent.

This rule also applies to Rahul and Priyanka.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.

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