The recent rumblings in the Congress party are attributed by many as a result of the string of electoral defeats in the by-polls elections in several states and more importantly an embarrassing poll drubbing in the Bihar assembly elections. But there is an ulterior motive behind these despondent cries by the senior Congress leaders, a senior journalist close to Congress has said in a report published in the Mumbai Mirror.
Many senior party leaders, including P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and others have been vocal about the need for a complete overhaul of the party in order to rescue itself from sliding into imminent political oblivion. About 23 dissenting leaders had shot off a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi back in August, emphasising the need for sweeping changes to be made in the party from top to bottom in order to arrest the eroding confidence of the party’s support base.
More recently, 23 Congress leaders wrote a letter addressed to Sonia Gandhi, raising concerns over the party’s disappointing performance in the recently concluded Bihar Assembly elections. In their letter, the leaders reportedly demanded that an immediate CWC meeting be called to discuss the poll debacle in Bihar. They had also purportedly asked for immediate organisational elections for the party president’s post in the view of the recent electoral defeats.
Senior party leaders vying for party manager position: Rasheed Kidwai
While the leaders ascribed their hand-wringing to the continuing dismal performance of the Congress party, a senior journalist close to Congress claims that behind the facade of concern for the welfare of the party, lies personal ambitions and career motivations harboured by the senior party leaders which are driving them to raise complaints about the leadership vacuum in Congress.
Rasheed Kidwai, a journalist known to be in thick with the Congress leadership, contends that the recent attempts by the party heavyweights to highlight the party’s poor leadership are meant to position themselves as suitable candidates, well equipped and capable shepherding the party through the ongoing turmoil.
Kidwai claims that from Chidambaram to Sibal, Tharoor, Divijaya Singh, Rajeev Shukla, Milind Deora and many others are eyeing the coveted position in the party right below the Gandhis in the Congress party hierarchy.
The journalist states that the internal churning in the Congress party is much to do with the ailing condition of party leader Ahmed Patel, who is battling for his life in an ICU in Gurgaon’s Medanta hospital. Patel had been a lynchpin of the Congress party, known for being close to the Gandhi family, stitching unexpected alliances, keeping rebels in check and fashioning Congress’ electoral strategy.
Ahmed Patel’s critical illness leaves a void for party heavyweights to jostle for greater leadership roles
With Patel incapacitated, the Congress working apparatus has been in a state of uncertainty since his admission to the Metro hospital in early October. That Patel played a crucial role in the party’s internal working is demonstrated from the fact that the peace accord between Sachin Pilot and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot remains to be signed, Kidwai says. He also added that the post of the AICC media head had been lying vacant since the promotion of Surjewala as full-time general secretary.
Similarly, in the absence of Patel, the Congress war room has been dysfunctional as the search for a coordinator goes on. The AICC treasurer is a coveted position which was previously held by senior leaders like Uma Shankar Dixit, Atulya Ghosh, Pranab Mukherjee, PC Sethi, Sitaram Kesari, and Motilal Vohra before Patel took control. The post held significance as the post-holder was in the know of where the money came from and where it was going. The AICC treasurer was entrusted with the responsibility of not only mobilise funds and muster crowd and support even when the party leaders’ campaigns failed.
Kidwai claims that as Patel continues to be critically ill and the key positions in the party remain vacant, several politicians, from P Chidambaram to Shukla, have their eyes set on the post of the effective party manager, not to steer Congress out of the quagmire but to elevate one’s stature in the party.