Congress President Sonia Gandhi (Right) along with Rahul Gandhi
Congress President Sonia Gandhi (Right) along with Rahul Gandhi

This is a friendly warning to all young and old Congressmen and Congresswomen. Lest you think a vacancy has opened up at the very top in the Congress Party, following a decision by its working committee to find a successor to interim president Sonia Gandhi, please do not rush to apply. That slot is permanently reserved for the Family, period. Monday’s virtual meeting of the extended CWC in the backdrop of the mild note of caution sounded by 23 senior leaders in a letter to Sonia, a black-swan event in a party firmly lassoed to the little finger of the Gandhis, was an exercise in sheer futility. After much melodrama by the likes of Manmohan Singh, A K Antony and the rest of the sycophantic crowd, with pledges of undying fealty to Sonia and Rahul and gushing tributes to their leadership, the seven-hour meeting ended on a familiar note. The interim arrangement with the interim president will continue in the interim, that is, till they can elect a new Congress president. At the outset, the materfamilias predictably brandished her resignation. There was no question of finding any takers. Not one among the 23 brave men and women who had most unexpectedly shown a streak of courage, lending their names to a letter seeking nothing more than an early end to the drift and dithering in the party, had the good sense to take the matter they had raised to its logical conclusion. Instead, they busied themselves sheepishly explaining why they had written the letter. Truly, they crumbled without a fight. Rahul, in his intervention, made it out as if the letter was an act of blasphemy. The gang of 23 was so insensitive, so cruel to write to his mother while she was ill --- it was an unpardonable act committed by the ingrates, who all their lives had drunk from the family trough. Sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra too was unsparing of Azad, finding him among the assumed challengers of the family hegemony. Azad, the leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha, came in for special attention from Sonia as well. How could he join the renegade crowd when all along, like an old family retainer, he had been rewarded with senior positions in government and party, she seemed to ask. Poor fellow, short of openly tearing up, he did everything to humiliate himself. Did he dare to rebel because he feared he would soon cease to be a Rajya Sabha member, his position as the leader of the party in the House going to the newly-elected Mallikarjun Kharge, questioned some others? Kapil Sibal, who, in all probability, took the lead in collecting the signatures, was angry at the accusation ascribed to Rahul that the letter-writers were in cahoots with the BJP, a familiar canard let loose by anyone who strays an inch from the straight and narrow of loyalty to the 10 Janpath Establishment. Sibal withdrew his angry tweet challenging Rahul to make good the charge after a Rahul crony clarified that he had not made the offending remark. In short, the seven-hour meeting put up a cringe-worthy show of loyalty to the family, rebuking in no uncertain terms those who had the audacity to write to the party chief.

A half-fruitful discussion on the ways and means of reinventing, reimagining the party in the current challenging political environment, with the Modi-led BJP posing an existentialist threat to the Grand Old Party, was far from the minds of these worthies. It should be noted that Rahul had quit as party chief, following the spectacular failure of the party in the May 2019 election. It is over a year now. A new Congress chief was to be found within a year, to replace Sonia Gandhi as interim president. Now, they say, 'we will elect a new chief in the next six months'. Which means they will go through the motions of an election to restore, of course, with an overwhelming majority of the AICC members, to Rahul Gandhi, something the interim president has all along desired from the bottom from her heart. In the meantime, letter-writers should be ready to pay for the audacity of seeking an end to the drift in the party. Their marginalisation is pukka. There is a very evocative phrase in Hindi: Hum Nahi Sudhrenge. Congress is condemned to stay as a creature of the Dynasty.

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