No option but to anoint Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the throne

Even as the BJP strongman in Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has closed the entry gates of the party to new aspirants, many are still hopeful and aspire to get accommodated into the party and of course get the cake for their new loyalty.

If Fadnavis really refuses entry to new applicants hereafter, the obvious choice left to them is the BJP ally Shiv Sena. I will not be surprised if the next influx would be in the Sena.

Sena still has a numerical scope to expand as the party had won 63 seats in the 2014 State Assembly elections and can accommodate many more to reach the figure of 135, a number agreed to by both two parties for seats to be contested by each partner.

A rough estimate leaves 18 seats to other smaller parties like Ramdas Athawale's RPI. However, if the BJP has to accommodate all those who have been given entry during and after the Lok Sabha polls, the party will be left with no other option but to go on its own for the State Assembly polls.

I recall the situation in 2014 Assembly elections. BJP decided to break their friendship on the eve of the last day of filing nomination, leaving the Sena in a lurch. If history repeats itself, the Sena would not be caught unaware.

Sena Party Chief Uddhav Thackeray has already secretly ordered the partymen to remain prepared to contest all 288 seats and take on BJP too.

In the Congress Camp

Of course, the picture is still unclear and we will have to wait for two more weeks if not more to make a clear analysis of the situation in Maharashtra. Until then, if Congress is spared a glance, it is clear that they are still on the look out for their new 'top boss' after Rahul Gandhi relinquished his post at a crucial time and has left the party numb.

The relevant question here is - how do you replace Rahul Gandhi? Well, if you are a member of Dynasty Central, otherwise known as the Congress party, the only choice is his sister, Priyanka Gandhi.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has now joined Shashi Tharoor's cry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for President, calling her an ideal candidate.

Tharoor recently admitted that he hopes Priyanka will throw her hat in the ring when the party calls for the election of its president. Tharoor added it was up to the Gandhi family to decide if she would contest for the job.

Tharoor wants elections for all key posts including the Congress Working committee (CWC) as a way "to legitimise the incoming set of leaders". The new call for Priyanka comes as the Congress failed in its efforts to save the Karnataka government.

Though this was perhaps the biggest sign of its coma since Rahul quit 75 days ago, the party showed some signs of perking up after the Singh intervention was made public - "Priyanka for President" While this seemed to render Priyanka off-limits at the time, senior leaders openly say it can only be her who can prevent a Congress implosion or a party split as Team Sonia (senior leaders) squares off against Team Rahul (Young Turks).

Significantly, the only recent sign from the Congress that it is still a force to be reckoned with was the Priyanka face-off last week with the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, as she tried to meet families of the 10 tribals who had been massacred in Sonbhadra.

Even when Priyanka staged her all-night sit-in at the guest house where she was detained, she insisted that she "had been sent there by Rahul-ji" who at that point was away in the United States.

But this indicates how warily Priyanka, otherwise an aggressive leader, is treading so as not to step all over her brother's explicit wish for his family to no longer lead the party.

Sonia Rejects the Suggestion

For the Congress, though any Gandhi fits, Priyanka still has a long way to go to establish herself as a mass leader. Sonia Gandhi has already rejected an appeal from senior leaders that she take over as interim president.

Perhaps the extent of the party paralysis where communiqués and decisions are still issued in the name of Rahul Gandhi despite his checking out, have persuaded the family to take another shot.

Or perhaps the trigger is the draining away of political power evident in the Karnataka government collapse and the giant hint by Tamil Nadu ally Stalin - the DMK chief who has invited Mamta Banerjee, West Bengal CM to inaugurate a statue of his father, political giant M Karunanidhi, in Chennai on Tuesday.

Mamta Didi is not a formal ally and in December last year, Sonia Gandhi had been invited to do similar honours. Going by various angles of the political developments, one can easily come to the conclusion that the Congress is left with very little option but to allow Priyanka, the Seventh member of the Nehru-Gandhi clan, to lead the oldest political force in the world.

Bharatkumar Raut is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament (RS).

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