October 5, 2022, 0:03

Congress Presidential Polls to Have No Bearing on Future Electoral Prospects, Political Analyst Says – 23.09.2022, Sputnik International

Congress Presidential Polls to Have No Bearing on Future Electoral Prospects, Political Analyst Says – 23.09.2022, Sputnik International


Rahul Trivedi All materialsSonia Gandhi had been the Congress president since 1998, when her son, Rahul Gandhi, became the party chief in 2017. However, he had to quit in 2019, taking responsibility for the party’s dismal performance in the parliamentary elections held the same year.After a years-long wait, the stage is finally set for an election of the president of India’s main opposition party, Congress, scheduled to take place on October 17. Currently, Rajasthan state chief Ashok Gehlot appears to be the frontrunner, whereas Shashi Tharoor, an erudite Congress parliamentarian, may also contest the polls. Media reports citing sources suggest senior politicians Kamal Nath and Manish Tewari may also be in the fray.

Meanwhile, some Congress-led states have passed resolutions calling on Rahul Gandhi to become the party chief again — but he has refused to contest in the polls.

Political expert Shekhar Iyer in an interview with Sputnik talked about the impact of change in the leadership of the country’s grand old party. Sputnik: Do you think a change in the top leadership of the Congress party could foster a political revival?Iyer: It all depends on who is going to get the leadership, because still, there is total confusion, as a lot of Congress-ruled states are still requesting Rahul Gandhi to become the party chief again. However, he is very firm that he will not take the post.Ashok Gehlot was sounded and he is even ready to take up the post, but doesn’t want to quit as state chief of Rajasthan, at least till the next state assembly elections, because he doesn’t want Sachin Pilot to become the state chief. He rather wants his close aide to take up the post. Gehlot even said that he can hold three posts at a time. But Digvijaya Singh (former Madhya Pradesh state chief) raised the issue of the “one man, one post” rule, which was adopted in the party’s Udaipur conclave. Now, even Rahul Gandhi has stated that whoever becomes party chief has to abide by this rule. This means Gehlot can’t become party president until he is willing to give up the top post in Rajasthan.So, all this shows that there is a sort of confusion and lack of direction.

As far as revival is concerned, I believe that electing a party chief is not a sign of revival. It should rather be a regular exercise. But that has itself become a problem, because the party doesn’t want to disassociate from the [Gandhi] family, and the family is not willing to give up the complete control of the party.

So, I think that the party has to win the elections for its revival. It is important to see what Congress is doing to win the elections.Sputnik: Why do you think there is confusion?Iyer: I have been told that within the Gandhi family there is [some] confusion. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra doesn’t want a non-Gandhian to take over the post of party president. She wants that either her mother Sonia Gandhi should become the party chief or she should be given the charge.It is also to be noted that whoever becomes the party president can’t continue forever. We saw that after the P.V. Narasimha Rao-led (Congress) government was voted out of power in the 1996 parliamentary elections, Sitaram Kesari became the (party) president, but he was replaced in 1998 by Sonia Gandhi.So, all these things raise doubt — will they really allow a non-Gandhi family person to continue, or is it only till such time that Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are ready to take charge.I think Congress is spending too much time on internal elections.Apart from this, amid all this the party has started “Bharat Jodo Yatra” (a political campaign to unite the people of the country). They are spending 18 days in a small southern state like Kerala when they should be traveling in north India, where they [are facing] the real challenge.They will be moving out of Kerala only after September 30 and reaching Karnataka, where the assembly elections are scheduled for next year. But what about Gujarat (in west India) and Himachal Pradesh (north India), where the elections are scheduled in the coming two months. There is no major campaign of the party in these two states.We should also understand that the elections for the top post of party are happening not because they wanted to change the president, but rather because of the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) stipulation. The ECI says that to remain a recognized political party, you have to follow the party constitution, which calls for regular internal elections, while Congress has been postponing it for the last three years.Sputnik: If we talk about succeeding in the polls, then it’s important to unite the cadre. Do you think that a non-Gandhi family member, if elected party chief, will be able to do so?Iyer: I think a non-Gandhi family person will not have the (kind of) authority which a Gandhi family member would likely possess. Because [being] Congress president means that he or she should have the power to decide. Do you really think that the Gandhi family will give complete power to someone from outside the family?

I believe that they want to keep the seat "hot," because Sonia Gandhi is not well and they are being criticized for nepotism. So, I think this all is just to show that the Gandhi family is not hungry for power and is willing to give the charge to someone from outside (their family).

They are building a narrative that the charge of the party was given to a non-Gandhi family person and under his or her leadership also the party lost the elections, so the Gandhi family takes over again.As far as I understand, Rahul Gandhi is not willing to take up the party president post because the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assembly polls are scheduled to be held in November and December respectively. And Congress is not in a strong position. So, he doesn’t want to take the blame for losing elections once again.Sputnik: Do you think that a change in leadership would boost Congress’ chances of reuniting the opposition?Iyer: A united opposition is a major challenge. To have a united opposition, there should be a pre-poll formula like Sonia Gandhi in 2016 shared with Mamata Banerjee to let the opposition field a candidate of the political party having a mass base in that particular constituency to have a direct contest against the BJP.No regional party will agree to this idea. I am saying so because every regional party will want to win a maximum number of seats to claim a larger share in the government. The regional parties will also want their leader to become the next prime minister.However, there is a twist in this situation. The regional parties, despite performing well in the elections, will not be able to win more than 100 seats, assuming they win all the seats in their respective states. In order to attain the majority figure of 272 (in parliament), Congress will have to win the rest of the number of seats, which seems a distant target as of now.So, the talk about “a united opposition” starts every time before elections, but the above mentioned things are the practical problems. Therefore, I think that elections for Congress party president have no bearings on future electoral prospects.Sputnik: We’ve been talking about uniting the cadre, as well as reviving the party — but with the list of contestants for the Congress president’s post expanding, won’t it become a major challenge for the party’s unity?Iyer: Of course it will. With so many candidates in the fray for the top post of the party, Congress will say that we have conducted the presidential elections with democracy. But only the one having the backing of the Gandhi family will become the chief, as happened in 1996, when Sonia Gandhi supported Sitaram Kesari instead of Sharad Pawar (now Nationalist Congress Party chief) or Rajesh Pilot (deceased).On the one hand, the Gandhi family wants to show that the elections for party chief have been conducted in a fair manner. On the other hand, close aides of the Gandhi family are asking Pradesh Congress Committees (state units of the party) to bring a resolution in favor of Rahul Gandhi.If the Gandhi family wants to give a message that the elections have been held in a democratic manner, they should have appointed someone from outside as party chief. But they are worried about their image only, and not the party.

Sourse: sputniknews.com

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