Congress Gears Up for Elections. Is BJP Worried?
With Nehru-Gandhi family at the center stage, Congress is ready to take the plunge in the cutthroat political battle, beginning with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
By Rakesh Raman
Amid cheers and complimentary slogan for them by thousands of party members, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi delivered their passionate speeches at the All India Congress Committee meeting held Friday in Delhi.
The meeting was aimed at reinvigorating the rank and file in the party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April / May this year. It was the first major attempt by Congress after its recent defeats in four State Assembly elections to consolidate its position not only among the party workers but also among the voters.
The clarity of thoughts that both Sonia and Rahul expressed in a very impressive tenor showed that Congress is still a major force in India’s political arena and might just be able to retain the ruling position after the elections. The discipline and unity that Congress clan demoed in the event would have sent jitters to the opposition party BJP.
The Friday meeting was particularly important for Congress to reconsolidate its position, as Sonia Gandhi once again showed the same selflessness that she showed in 2004 when she was offered to become the Prime Minister (PM). At that time, she would have easily become the PM but sacrificed in favor of Manmohan Singh to select him as the PM.
Now, when all Congress people were urging for the nomination of Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate, Sonia categorically refused to accept this demand. And in Friday’s meeting, Rahul made it clear that going by the norms of the Indian constitution, the elected MPs will select the PM after the elections.
Today, there is not even a single soul in Congress party who can oppose Rahul as the PM candidate. But through this selfless gesture, both the mother and the son preferred to do it in a democratic manner, leaving the decision with the elected members to choose their PM after the elections.
With this move, Congress clearly scored a political point over the rival BJP where the top leaders in the party quarreled openly last year for grabbing the PM candidature. Finally ignoring the senior leader L.K. Advani, BJP under constant pressure from Narendra Modi had to select him as the PM candidate. Advani must still be sulking.
By not declaring Rahul as the future PM and giving him the role to spearhead the hustings for Congress that Sonia has been doing, the party also tried to send the signal that Congress is not a dynastic party, as it’s largely perceived.
To further emphasize the need for increased internal democracy and merit-based growth for Congress members, Rahul introduced a new model of candidate selection to contest elections.
As a pilot case, he said the selection of the candidates in 15 constituencies will be done by the local leaders and not by Congress top brass. And if this prototype succeeds, it will be implemented in more parliamentary and state constituencies, he said.
The Friday conference was a completely different event for Congress, as under the new leadership of Rahul that he just got from her mother, the party not only showed its unity for the Lok Sabha election campaigns, but it also set the direction for the Congress of the future.
Reiterating his father Rajiv Gandhi’s pledge of taking the party (and the country) in the fast-progressing 21st century, Rahul – with his emotional speech – called all his party people to get ready for the task irrespective of the results at the elections. Rajiv Gandhi, a former PM of India, was assassinated in 1991.
Rahul also cautioned the opposition parties – particularly the main rival BJP – that they won’t be able to defeat Congress because Congress is not just a group of people, but it’s a 3000-year-old idea that is ingrained in India’s culture. And this idea can’t be eliminated; people who tried to eliminate this idea were themselves eliminated, Rahul warned.
While he also used humor effectively in his extempore address, Rahul (like his mother Sonia Gandhi) was suddenly very impressive, although he is not known as a good orator. Taking a swipe at BJP (without naming it), Rahul said that is a party which is good only at marketing without any delivery and can sell combs to the bald.
And amid billowing laughters from the attendees at the meeting, Rahul said new politicians (referring to Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP) are going a step further with the promise to give haircut to the bald. Both Sonia and Rahul used impeccable English and Hindi languages to address the gathering.
The new enthusiasm in Congress can also be attributed to the increased interest from Rahul’s sister Priyanka Gandhi. Of late, Priyanka, who enjoys a great respect among Congress leaders and workers, has enhanced her participation in the party affairs to strengthen its position in the Lok Sabha elections.
Sonia said she was unnecessarily getting worried (after the recent State Assembly election defeats). But after seeing the enthusiasm of the Congress cadre, she expressed, Congress is determined to go ahead in the elections with the conviction and ideology that binds the party with the people at large.
Sonia’s emphatic announcement may be a cause of concern for BJP because now it’s expected to be a straight fight between Congress and BJP after the increasing failure of Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP government in Delhi.
Sonia and Rahul expressed their determination to again lead Congress to victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Although Congress is perceived to be a family-run party, truth is that this Nehru-Gandhi family is also the backbone of the party. Today, there is no other Congress leader who can manage the monolithic party as effectively as Sonia, Rahul, and Priyanka can do.
As these three family members will occupy the center stage, Congress is ready to take the plunge in the cutthroat political battle, beginning with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Company.
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