Rahul's dream of remaking the Congress sans the Gandhis can only be fulfilled if none from the First Family is a candidate when the time comes for the newly elected members to choose the president, says Amulya Ganguli, a writer on current affairs.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
Rahul Gandhi has failed again.
This time, it is not against the BJP, but against his own party.
After the Congress's defeat in the last general election, he tried to bring about a sea change in the organisation by cutting out its dynastic component.
He wanted a non-Gandhi to head the party.
To achieve this objective, he resigned from the post of president and turned down all entreaties from his family members as well as party men to withdraw his resignation.
Although he never clarified why he wanted someone else from outside the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to take charge, it is possible that he sensed that his family's monopolisation of the president's post was one of the factors behind the Congress's dismal performance in the last two general elections -- being able to win only 44 and 52 seats, respectively -- and that it was time, therefore, for the party to turn over a new leaf.
Perhaps Rahul was spooked by Narendra Damodardas Modi's relentless criticism of parivarvaad or dynasticism being at the root of all evil just as the prime minister himself was unnerved by Rahul's 'suit boot ki sarkar' jibe to try to shed his earlier pro-business image.
Whatever the reason for Rahul's decision to step down, it was generally welcomed as the first sign of the party's realisation that a feudal ambience is out of sync with the modern world.
For a time, it appeared that Rahul will be able to pull off his coup vis-à-vis the party, or bombard the headquarters as Mao Zedong did in China in order to usher in the cultural revolution.
Moreover, it appeared that Rahul's initiative was directed at marginalising the party's old guard grouped around his mother, Sonia.
Rahul was perceived to be heading the young Turks against the old fogies.
But, then, Modi struck.
The decision of the Krishna-Arjun duo, as Modi and Amit Shah have been called by fading film star Rajnikanth, to scrap Article 370 set the cat among the young Turk pigeons, a number of whom have defied the Congress's line to support Modi.
In contrast, the old guard -- Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram -- have stood firm.
There was no question, therefore, for any of the young Turks being elevated to the president's post although the names of Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia had earlier been proposed.
Instead, several old warhorses entered the fray, with Mukul Wasnik being seen as the front-runner even as the working committee members decided to choose Sonia Gandhi.
Notwithstanding A K Antony's caveat that she was not well enough to shoulder the burden of rescuing the party from its present dire straits, the Congress has gone back to the Gandhis yet again.
Although she is only the interim president who is expected to hold the fort till the internal elections are held, it is difficult to predict the post-poll scenario.
Rahul's dream of remaking the Congress sans the Gandhis can only be fulfilled if none from the First Family is a candidate when the time comes for the newly elected members to choose the president.
Will this happen, or will the shell-shocked members insist on Rahul or Priyanka being a candidate?
Arguably, the Congress is so besotted with the Gandhis that no ordinary member will be willing to stand for the august post.
At the same time, even if a non-Gandhi does become the chief, few will doubt that the Family, especially Rahul, will continue to call the shots.
That will be, in a way, another defeat for him.
Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs.