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HindustanTimes Fri,31 Oct 2014

Ready to take decisions, signals Rahul

Pankaj Vohra , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 29, 2013
First Published: 00:58 IST(29/9/2013) | Last Updated: 01:00 IST(29/9/2013)

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's "the ordinance is complete nonsense" remark may have taken many people in his party and its government by surprise but it could well change the chain of command in the party's power structure.

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To begin with, the comment has made the Congress core committee - set up 10 years ago for government-party coordination - totally redundant and put a colossal question mark over some resolutions adopted earlier by the powerful body.

Simultaneously, his views have sent a strong message to the Union cabinet to take only such decisions that are consistent with the public mood.

The Congress vice president has further used the opportunity to challenge the establishment in his own party and, in the process, tried to identify himself with the organisation's rank and file that is fed up of being ignored by the coterie close to his mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Many in the party believe that Rahul wanted to cut to size some of his senior colleagues who have enjoyed enormous clout during the last 15 years. His aim is apparently to send a clear signal that only he and his immediate team will call the shots in future.

While the opposition to the ordinance has put the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues in an extremely precarious position, its objective has more to do with power politics within the Congress.

Many who were left wondering as to why the young man seen by his party as the future PM did not speak on important issues all these years, must have got their answer on Friday.

It is obvious that had Rahul spoken on issues where his stand was inconsistent with the government's, the ruling dispensation would have found it very difficult to carry forward its agenda.

Rahul, of course, is being justifiably criticised for speaking his mind on the ordinance while the PM was out of the country to meet world dignitaries. However, it seems he took this uncharacteristic step because he was positive that the ordinance would not go down well with the public.

He was told that President Pranab Mukherjee could turn it down and, if that were done, the government would have egg on its face. The embarrassment for the PM and his government was in either case going to be acute.

A leader close to Rahul said: "He took a conscious decision to oppose the ordinance after listening to his conscience."

Party circles are also interpreting the controversy in the context of the PM's remarks earlier this month that he was willing to work under Rahul's leadership.

It is being pointed out that if the Prime Minister of nearly 10 years was undermining his own position, how can his stature diminish after the criticism?

While Sonia is trying to placate the PM, speculation continues on whether he would resign upon his return from the US. Leaders conversant with the party's style feel that the PM is likely to carry on and the cabinet decision would be reversed.

At worst, a couple of cabinet ministers or party leaders could be asked to step down or reprimanded for proposing the ordinance.

However, the party's fortunes in the forthcoming assembly and parliamentary polls will not change; meaning it will have to work very hard to challenge the opposition.


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