Congress is in a state of chaos and the party seems to be imploding from the within. The implosion is so grotesque, that much like actual explosions where it takes hours, nay, days, to piece together what really transpired, nobody can truly figure out what is going on at the CWC meet. Essentially, Sonia Gandhi was the interim chief of Congress. Then, news surfaced that she had resigned. Soon, news surfaced that she had not resigned. Then, Congress ‘rebels’, who are essentially loyalists only, write a letter demanding for a full overhaul of the party. In the meantime, “protests” erupted demanding that Rahul Gandhi become the Congress President yet again. Somewhere in between, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said that a non-Gandhi should become the President but some other Congress members protested and said that the party would disintegrate if a Gandhi was not at the helm to lead them proudly to defeat.
Now, at the CWC, things get even more confusing. Essentially, Sonia Gandhi is acting as the sacrificing queen who only wants what is best for her kingdom (Congress) and her successor to the throne (Rahul Gandhi) while Rahul Gandhi is acting as the Laltu Chele (Mama’s boy) who wants to uphold his mother’s reigning honour and legacy.
To that effect, Sonia Gandhi first said that she is giving the party time to find her replacement and after they do, she will be stepping down from her position as the Congress President – As a section of the leaders want. Reportedly, Rahul Gandhi was unhappy with the letter of dissent and raised questions over the timing of the letter. However, after media reported that he had said that those leaders (which included Kapil Sibal) were colluding with BJP and Kapil Sibal’s meltdown, Sibal clarified that Rahul had ‘personally’ assured him that he had said no such thing.
In the meantime, AK Antony reportedly said that the letter by rebel Congress leaders was ‘cruel’ and Ghulam Nabi Azad, after hailing Sonia Gandhi, offered to resign.
Essentially, amidst this entire chaos that the Congress party seems to have become, only one thing seems to be certain – there is a section that wants Sonia Gandhi to continue as the President of Congress and there is another section that wants Rahul Gandhi to continue.
However, the “internal rift” trope becomes slightly difficult to believe since Congressmen are often more loyal than the queen herself and that the Congress party would rebel against the Gandhi seems unthinkable.
Then what really is happening? Is this the old guard vs news guard battle? Is the old guard Sonia Gandhi and the new guard Rahul Gandhi?
Here are the three explanation we think could explain the confusion and chaos in Congress currently:
Gandhis vs Outsiders
This might seems like what could be happening, especially after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra randomly said that a non-Gandhi should become the President of the Congress party next, however, this is highly unlikely.
One could think that finally, with all the talk about nepotism, the ouster of a leader like Jyotiraditya Scindia, the almost ouster of Sachin Pilot and the downright terrible leadership provided by Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leaders may just have grown the hint of a spine and decided that it was time the Congress party was cleansed of the Gandhi clan.
However, a mass uprising that could affect any form of change is unlikely in the Congress party. Even in the past, there were dissenting voices who thought that a change of guard was long over-due, however, while the pretence to take them seriously was put on diligently, eventually, they were ousted and the reign of the Gandhis continued.
While long-time loyalists like Ramchandra Guha, who are not the sole recipients of the gravy train anymore, theorise that a non-Gandhi must lead the party now, it seems unlikely that his dreams would be realised.
Old Guard vs New Guard
When there is a battle, the central subject of which is whether Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi should lead the party, the obvious conclusion one can draw is that it is the battle between the old guard of the Congress party vs the new guard. Which is to say, that the battle is between Rahul Gandhi and his supporters vs Sonia Gandhi and her supporters.
However, the interpret the battle as the ‘old guard’ being Sonia Gandhi and the ‘new guard’ being Rahul Gandhi could be fallacious. The battle seems to be far more between the new crop of leaders who resort to ugly name calling and sub-intellectual ranting with zero finesse versus the old group of leaders who peddled the same nefarious agenda but with some semblance of panache. For example, the reactions of Divya Spandana and Pallavi Ghosh are rather telling in this aspect.
When the news of Rahul Gandhi accusing Kapil Sibal and the others of working in tandem with the BJP arose (later rumoured to be false), Pallavi Ghosh, who is a Congress loyalist, immediately jumped into action to defend the senior leaders.
She said that the leaders can be criticised for writing the letter, but accusing them of helping BJP is ‘not done’.
Azad .. sibal .. u can criticise them for writing the letter .. but to accuse them of helping the bjp isnt done … as reports come in of azad saying he will resign if party can prove charges against him— pallavi ghosh (@_pallavighosh) August 24, 2020
Contrast this to the response by Divya Spandana.
Responding to the now-deleted tweet by Kapil Sibal, Spandana said that Rahul Gandhi should have said that the leaders who wrote the dissenting letter were not only colluding with BJP but also with the media.
I think Rahul ji made a mistake. He should have said colluding with the BJP & the media. https://t.co/ZmtLe5YzPu— Divya Spandana/Ramya (@divyaspandana) August 24, 2020
It should also be kept in mind that while old leaders like Sibal dissent, young and uncouth leaders like Hardik Patel support the Rahul Gandhi camp.
भारत के नवनिर्माण और कांग्रेस पार्टी की मज़बूती के लिए श्री राहुल गांधी का नेतृत्व बेहद ज़रूरी हैं। श्री राहुल गांधी पर देश भरोसा करता है, राहुल गांधी नफ़रत को नहीं भाईचारे को बढ़ावा देते है, बदले की भावना से नहीं बदलाव की भावना से काम करते हैं।— Hardik Patel (@HardikPatel_) August 23, 2020
जी हाँ #MyLeaderRahulGandhi
Thus, to assume that the fight is between Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi could be off the mark. The fight, essentially, seems to be between a ruffian group that supports Rahul Gandhi and the traditional political class that would prefer Sonia Gandhi’s methods of rule.
Fight for resources: Memes or Media?
While the old leaders and young turks fight it out, the chaos in the Congress party could well be about the distribution of resources. With their electoral downfall, one can possibly imagine that the resources at the disposal of Congress, to invest in the media and to ensure that Rahul Gandhi ‘comes of age’ against would be limited.
In such a scenario, the destruction of resources would be paramount. One would imagine that Sonia Gandhi would want to employ resources in traditional media and journalists instead of Twitter trolls. However, Rahul Gandhi would be more incline to investing in a Twitter army and meme makers as we have seen in the past.
The contrasting tweets by Pallavi Ghosh and Divya Spandana could be a testament to the fact. Rahul Gandhi had planed immense faith in Spandana, who used to spread fake news, share offensive memes and quotes as a political weapon against the BJP. However, Pallavi Ghosh, while loyal to the Congress, had a bit more finesse in peddling the Congress agenda.
Essentially, while Congress is firmly in the throws of chaos, the battle does not seem to be between Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as much as their supporters who are looking for their own place in the gravy boat.