Congress members don't want Rahul Gandhi back as party chief. But the problem is that Sonia Gandhi won't have anyone other than her son to take over the Family Firm, notes Virendra Kapoor.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
As expected, the reprisals have begun. The loyalists are being rewarded in the Congress Parliamentary Party overlooking the claims of senior and far more talented members.
Not for nothing have the Gandhis maintained a vice-like grip on the Congress party. There is no mercy in their lexicon for anyone showing a whiff of rebellion against the Leader. And shorn of the verbiage and explanatory statements that followed, the letter-writers's real target was Rahul Gandhi.
They don't want him back as party chief. But the problem is that interim party President Sonia Gandhi would not have anyone other than her son to take over the Family Firm.
Having concluded that the Regent does not have it in him to provide a half-meaningful leadership, the long-suffering serfs at long last picked up the courage to bell the cat, as it were.
In the annals of the family-run Firm, this was unprecedented, a clear and present threat to their control over the 135-year-old party and needed to be put down ruthlessly.
Unless crushed immediately, it could open the floodgates of a bigger rebellion by the party minions.
Therefore, the hastily summoned virtual meeting of the Congress Working Committee was used to sing hallelujahs to the Family.
The G-23 was hauled over the coals for their audacity to suggest that something needs to be done to arrest the drift and decline in the party's fortunes.
Outflanked by the pincer attack by the cringing courtiers, the resistance of the brave ones crumbled, all of them sheepishly offering explanations for the letter and repeatedly offering avowals of unfaltering faith in the Family, including Rahul Gandhi.
The challenge petered out without anything to show by way of gain for the party. The assurance of organisational elections to choose a successor to the interim president was a chimera, given how these are conducted.
The last time these were held was in 1998 when Sonia Gandhi was anointed the party chief. It was an exercise in make-believe, with no serious challenger against her.
Since 1998, the party has not even cared to go through the motions of an election. The entire organisational structure is filled with nominations from on-high.
This time too it will be no different. Finding someone who will offer a serious challenge to a candidate of 10 Janpath will be far more difficult than finding a corona vaccine.
Because sycophancy of the Gandhis alone guarantees rise in the party hierarchy. Those with support-bases of their own had already abandoned the sinking ship.
Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Jaganmohan Reddy are leaders in their own right in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
They went their own separate ways because they saw no future in a party that was firmly tied to the little finger of the Gandhis.
The chief ministers of Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh pooh-poohed the letter-writers. This too was true to the character of the party.
Occupying gaddiS thanks to the blessings of the Gandhis, they had no reason to join the 'rebels'. Or be bothered about the lack of internal democracy in the party or its sharply falling popularity graph.
They were happy enjoying the fruits of power. And that was all that seemed to matter to them -- never mind what happens to the party.
The letter may well have caused a storm in a teacup, but the lament of its writers merits serious consideration.
Fear of bleak future with the near-certain return of Rahul is not misplaced. The heir apparent does not inspire confidence.
His tweets against Modi and his cheap jibes are counter-productive -- unbothered, the PM grows strength to strength.
Also, the myth that Rahul was particularly close to the relatively young leaders stood smashed, with Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan and Jyotiraditya Scindia rising in open revolt.
Instead of offering a strong and meaningful opposition to the governments' several acts of omission and commission, from the rising coronavirus infections to the failing economy to the threat at our borders, the Congress is obsessed with putting down the reformists in its ranks.
Under the circumstances, there can be no redemption for the Grand Old Party.
Meanwhile, the deliberations of the virtual meeting of the CWC again revealed the former prime minister in poor light.
Instead of patting the letter-writers on their back for their concern about the fast declining fortunes of the party, the two-time nominated prime minister pledged undying fealty to the Gandhis along with other plain vanilla leaders.
And Rahul, instead of sounding humble and conciliatory, was aggressive in accusing the G-23 of being insensitive, sending the letter when Mummy was in hospital.
It was an unpardonable act by the ingrates who all their lives had drunk from the family trough, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra seemed to suggest, targeting Ghulam Nabi Azad in particular for challenging the family hegemony.
How could he join the renegades when as an old family retainer he was rewarded with plum positions in government and party for decades? Poor fellow, short of openly tearing up, he did everything to humiliate himself.
Did the rebel seeing the end of his cushy career, with his Rajya Sabha term ending soon, and position as the leader of the party in the Upper House set to go to the newly-elected Mallikarjun Kharge?
The Leader may have succeeded in turning the letter-bomb into a complete dud, but the issues raised by it, such as drift and dithering in the party, confusion over leadership, lack of internal democracy, are unlikely to go away easily.
Unless resolved, these will haunt the Gandhis, further hastening the process of their growing irrelevance in the polity.