Sonia Gandhi is creating a record next month by completing ten years as Congress President and a senior leader cautioned of "difficulties" ahead unless she emulated Indira Gandhi and shakes off the coalition mentality.
"Congress today is finding itself in great difficulty and unless something is drastically done following Indira Gandhi's path and her example to reorganise the party, I am afraid things will be very difficult," former Union Minister Vasant Sathe said.
Sathe, who once said his last desire was to see Gandhi as Prime Minister, reminded her that people rallied round Indira in the 1980 polls after she rebuilt party following the split, shunned alliances and brought up several young leaders at a time when the stalwarts targeted her.
"We have to pull up Congress from the grassroots whether we win or lose. People must be given confidence only then they will rally round. If you don't do this, then there are permutations and combinations. Unless you are strong enough, why other parties would like to collaborate with us," he queried while talking to PTI.
The veteran Congressman at the outset, however, paid glowing tributes to Gandhi's "tremendous sagacity at great odds" to retrieve the party which was virtually in the dumps during Sitaram Kesri's tenure.
Sathe, however, said Gandhi herself could not be blamed for the failure to build the party on its own strength but the responsibility was mainly of her advisers.
He said it was unfortunate that her advisers are tuned to the coalition mould and therefore turning the Congress into the largest single party that can form the government on its own is not happening.
The statement is significant as a section of the party is of the view that "the natural allies of the party are its natural enemies", in the words of an AICC General Secretary. This section feels that the Congress should go it alone in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Another party veteran Ram Niwas Mirdha said Gandhi is the "best bet" for the party and blamed certain party leaders for scuttling the changes she wanted to bring in for ensuring more democracy in the Grand Old Party as they were not used to organisational elections.
Incidentally, Gandhi is the fifth member from the Nehru-Gandhi family to have occupied the top party post. Motilal Nehru was the party Chief for two terms and was succeeded by his son Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were also party chiefs for several years.
But Sonia Gandhi is the first leader who would be completing a decade in that post. Mirdha said Gandhi always played a decisive role at crucial moments and "but for her intervention on various occasions, the aam aadmi would have been forgotten entity in our scheme of things". Both Sathe and Mirdha eulogised her for the way she adapted to politics and later renounced the Prime Ministership.