Congress big guns try to find feet in troubled politics, but can they?

CWC, NDA, Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, DMK, French Open, Government formation, Elections
Sonia Gandhi tried to sort out differences among the higher ranks of the party during the CWC meeting | PTI/File

The warring children of the grand old party are said to be coming together once again though after some efforts for the past sometime. The latest of them is Saturday’s (October 16) meeting of Congress higher-ups.

But the question is where is it going to take the party? Or, will Congress be on a better footing in the times to come than what has been the case for the past over seven years, or since Congress lost power at the Centre and in quite a few states too?

But first let’s look at the latest party conclave. A nearly five-hour long meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) chaired by party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi tried to sort out not only differences among the higher ranks of the party but also find a way out from the recent listlessness that the party has been caught in.

Sonia who has helmed the party for two decades now assured peers that she was very much around to hold hands and lend ears. “I have always appreciated frankness. There is no need to speak to me through the media. So let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC,” she said.


This and her other remarks at the CWC are indicative of the communication gap that the party has been dogged with. So much so that a group of 23 senior Congress leaders had to shoot a letter to her to register their concern about the absence of a full-time party chief and the consequent indecision and limbo that the party suffered as a result of it.

A few CWC meetings were held after the group, famously known as G-23, wrote the controversial letter and also leaked it to the press in August last year. But the issues raised therein were never fully sorted out. And it has been so since no schedule for picking up a regular Congress president was announced either through election or consensus.

So the last weekend’s CWC meeting came up with a plan to start a membership drive, hold organisational elections right from block level office-bearers to that of the party president and the CWC members by September next year.

Also read: I am a ‘full-time and hands-on Congress president’, Sonia Gandhi tells CWC

Earlier, the top party post had fallen vacant after Rahul Gandhi resigned in the wake of the crushing defeat that Congress led by him had suffered in the 2019 general elections.

Sonia Gandhi had to step in and take over as interim president to save the party from becoming rudderless. Yet, the fortunes of the party did not look up and Congress suffered a series of setbacks in polls that were subsequently held for several state assemblies.

So it is in this backdrop that October 16 meeting of the CWC took place where like on earlier occasions several Congress leaders again urged Rahul to take the reins of the party.

Yet, Rahul only relented a bit by saying that he would “surely give it a thought” and did not immediately agree to revoke his earlier decision and take over the command of the party.

At the end of the meeting, a schedule for party elections was announced indicating that Sonia will continue to lead Congress for another year or so or until Rahul is able to make up his mind about his return to the top party post.

Rahul Gandhi emerges, with Priyanka

But Rahul did make some significant remarks before the CWC members and invitees. These were meant to underline the need to go back to and revive the original and undiluted ethos and ideology of the party because as per him only adherence to them could enable the party to steer the country out of the “exceptional challenges” that it has come to face now. His remarks were, indeed, “moving” as per the party insiders. He indicated that he had thoughts that made him to prefer selfless struggle over convenience, sense of purpose over expediency and sacrifice over compromise as per the traditions of the Congress party.

Rahul is said to have been heard with greater attention this time at the CWC than the previous occasions when party brass met mostly virtually to avoid physical proximity in view of COVID guidelines.

The party old hats feel that this could well take away signs of dissent in the party and eventually help the Gandhis to strike commonality from the divergent views in the party regarding today’s vexed politics and the ways to tackle it.

Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi,
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra

The assessment being made after the CWC is that Rahul’s idealism is now being seen with a greater degree of respect by the party leaders than before. Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma who had signed G-23 letter reiterated that they only sought clarity without opposing the leadership.

Whatever may be the case, the more important fact is that the Gandhi siblings have of late been striking a more intimate chord than before not only in the party meetings but also in their public interaction. The last is also becoming more consistent than what used to be the case earlier.

Both Rahul and Priyanka are more visible in the open or public arena after a long gap where the COVID lockdown made their movement greatly restricted. Priyanka and Rahul’s recent visit to Lakhimpur Kheri amid stiff resistance by Uttar Pradesh Government to deny them limelight (as per Congressmen’s claims) after an unfortunate incident involving the son of a BJP minister at the Centre brought public attention to both the Gandhis as well as the Congress.

Soon Priyanka Gandhi held a crowded rally at Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Priyanka’s few other Varanasi-like events are lined up in other places in UP for later this month.

Yet, it is a moot question whether these efforts will turn the public mood in Congress’s favour to the extent of making it win enough seats to make its mark in UP, or will it split Opposition parties votes to help the BJP in case Congress goes to the polls alone or without an understanding with Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samaj Party?

Alliances and associations

But with Sonia at the top of the Congress, there can well be a possibility of either a pre-poll or post-poll alliance with non-BJP parties, depending upon the situation as it evolves in poll-bound states.

Significantly, the Congress president remarked at the CWC meeting, “I have been interacting with like-minded political parties regularly. We have issued joint statements on national issues and coordinated our strategy in Parliament as well.”

This can well have promise for further understanding with other parties in future. It is more so since Sonia had held a virtual interaction with other parties’ leaders in August this year where she urged them to hold joint protests against the BJP government’s policies they were opposed to.

Also read: Rahul pulls a Vajpayee, drives tractor to Parliament to protest farm laws

Besides these moves, Congress has of late been trying to become more acceptable to the socially underprivileged sections. The Dalit Chief Minister of Punjab Charanjit Singh Channi was among those who attended Saturday’s CWC meeting.

Rahul shared the exchange that he had had with Channi over phone to tell him that he was going to become Chief Minister. This made Channi to break down since he never thought it to be possible because of his caste. Notably, two other Congress Chief Ministers in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh too are from backward castes.

This kind of social positioning is rather new for the oldest party of the country though it is yet to be seen how far this and other moves being made by Congress to regain its lost ground are going to succeed.

But what is becoming clear is that the dissenting voices in the party are getting lulled and the efforts for this started well before the CWC meeting by a few select Congress leaders are finally having a positive effect.

(The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi and NCR).

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not reflect the views of The Federal)