The endorsement of Sonia Gandhi as the president of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for the fourth term was a foregone conclusion and the one-day special meeting last week should have been aptly called the ‘stamping session’. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Sonia is the unquestioned and unchallenged leader of her party. Equally true is the fact that even Rahul Gandhi’s position is similar to that of his mother’s and in the Grand Old Party, nurtured by several generations of Nehru-Gandhis, there is no one who will contest this position, at least for now.
Therefore, what is surprising is that the AICC has empowered the Congress president to nominate her working committee instead of holding elections for the positions. Elections would have strengthened the organisation and made its functioning more transparent and credible. The important point here is that the winners of elections to the CWC would have continued to back Sonia and Rahul’s leadership. But what the elected members may not have done is that they may have not endorsed the leadership of many others who have surrounded the Congress high command and wield enormous powers.
The conclusion here is that it is the coterie around Sonia Gandhi which may have prevailed upon her not to go in for elections to the CWC since some of them would have become insecure. The real danger of having elections for party positions is to the coterie and not to the supreme leadership.
Elections to the CWC were a regular feature once upon a time and this tradition needs to be revived. The real Young Turks like Chandrashekhar emerged within the party only because of these elections and Indira Gandhi encouraged the process.
The case for having elections is further strengthened by the fact that Rahul Gandhi has been encouraging contests within the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and the Youth Congress. This activity is making these frontal organisations more vibrant. When his experiment has been successful and he represents the future of the party, what is the harm if elections to the CWC are held and those who win come to the august body with the backing of the delegates? But by insisting on nominations, some within the party may be wanting to curtail Rahul’s growing influence since his absolute emergence at a later date will obviously weaken the positions of those who occupy key posts now. In this context, can the decision for nominations be interpreted as a step that could hurt the style adopted by Rahul Gandhi? Second, the Congress constitution also has provision for a parliamentary board that is the highest decision-making body. Is there a case for its revival?
The AICC session also left many wondering why no reference was made to the issue of corruption, particularly when allegations of a serious nature have been made against several top leaders both during the run-up to the Commonwealth Games and the Adarsh housing scam. The message that has gone out is not positive for the party.
Second, a more considered thought should have gone into picking the handful of speakers selected to speak on Sonia’s endorsement. Barring Ramesh Chennithala, virtually everyone else whose name figured in the list was a lightweight. It would have been far better had two chief ministers, two cabinet ministers, two general secretaries, a couple of pradesh chiefs and those belonging to the frontal organisations been asked to speak, besides a couple of eminent Congressmen. Sonia’s endorsement would then have had the desired gravitas.
The Congress has time to rectify some of its errors. The three-day session slated for December in the Delhi cold could be shifted to a more comfortable weather zone given that leaders from south and east India will be there. But the Congress always has its own logic. Between us.