The Congress party is preparing to shift Rahul Gandhi to its ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’ while preparing for Priyanka Vadra Gandhi’s Prime Ministerial bid in 2024. At least that is what the Congress is planning according to an article by Rasheed Kidwai on News18.
Kidwai writes, “Rahul Gandhi is set to get a leadership role in the mould of an ideologue or a supreme leader without holding an office.” He adds towards the end, “It is a hush-hush plan and an open secret. In the Congress scheme of things, Priyanka Gandhi will be projected as a prime ministerial face in 2024.”
There is also a widening rift within the party between the old guard and the young, Kidwai says. The visiting fellow at the ORF foundation describes it as a “war of attrition”. The two figures at the mix of it all are Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, the Chief Minister and Deputy CM of Rajasthan respectively.
After the Assembly victories last year, Rahul Gandhi favoured the old guard in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh both. However, after the drubbing the party received in the 2019 General Elections, the position of the Old Guard appears untenable.
As for Rahul Gandhi’s role as an ideologue, Mani Shankar Aiyar had offered similar advice recently. He had said that if Rahul doesn’t want to carry on as Congress President, he shouldn’t be forced to. At the same time, Aiyar had emphasized that the Nehru-Gandhi family should continue to intervene in contentious matters. The Congress party, if it decides to elevate Rahul Gandhi to the stature of an ideologue, will be treading the path suggested by Aiyar.
According to reports that had surfaced in the aftermath of the Congress Working Committee meeting, Rahul Gandhi himself was flabbergasted with the conduct of the Old Guard. It was suggested that veterans like Kamal Nath and Gehlot were more concerned with the fate of their own sons than the party. Thus, it is a very distinct possibility that the party leadership could be handed over to someone like Jyotiraditya Scindia or Pilot himself, two young leaders who are touted to be close to Rahul Gandhi himself.
It is also unclear what ideology Rahul Gandhi would endorse if he were to assume the baton of Congress party’s ideologue. His ramblings during the 2019 election campaign don’t inspire a lot of confidence. His campaign lacked any coherent message or an overarching narrative apart from an aversion towards Narendra Modi.
His relentless campaign against the Rafale Deal was interrupted with occasional musings to the effect of ‘Hogi Pyar Ki Jeet’. The manifesto of the party appeared to have been written by a millennial from Berkeley University in the USA. Moreover, Rahul Gandhi is not renowned for his sound intellect. Therefore, elevating Rahul Gandhi to the stature of a party ideologue will only reduce Congress to the state of abject mockery.
It’s not surprising that Priyanka Vadra Gandhi could be the Congress party’s Prime Ministerial candidate in 2024. In hindsight, her not contesting from Varanasi appears to be an attempt to shield the potential future PM candidate from a certain defeat.
However, the most interesting part is the ongoing war between the Old Guard and the Young. It remains to be seen whether the party can overcome this conundrum without suffering a split. For able and popular leaders like Sachin Pilot, it wouldn’t make much sense to continue with a party that sidelines him at every step when he could do very well outside it. At the same time, the Gehlots and Kamal Naths will be loathed to part with their own base.
It’s a dark phase for the Congress party, it remains to be seen whether ideologue Rahul Gandhi could avert a calamity.