Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi had a quiet one-to-one luncheon meeting with senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad early this week, ostensibly to press for the senior leaders accept her brother Rahul Gandhi as the party president to replace their mother and interim president Sonia Gandhi.
Azad, who has now gone to Jammu with the rebel leaders in the Group of 23 agitating for revamp of the Congress to attend a function of the Gandhi Global Foundation he heads, is understood to have told Priyanka many leaders in his camp are upset with Rahul as he has been taking decisions without consultation that are damaging the party in various states. Priyanka came away from the meeting with a surprise offer from Azad he could lobby for her with the senior leaders during the 3-day Jammu sojourn if she is willing to take the party's mantle as the new Congress president. Azad told her frankly the party seniors in his Group of 23 will not accept anyone else imposed by Rahul as his nominee.
Azad reportedly pressed Priyanka for the way she is reviving the party in Uttar Pradesh as the in-charge of the state and going from place to place attending the farmers’ gathering to send out a message to the rural India the Congress stands by the farmers agitating for the repeal of the three contentious farm laws.
For Priyanka, the offer from Azad on behalf of the rebels is embarrassing as she becoming a rebels’ candidate will be unacceptable to Sonia and Rahul, particularly when Sonia has told party leaders in the internal meetings that for her there is only one candidate for the post and that is Rahul Gandhi.
GOP in difficulty after poll schedule
The Congress is caught in its web after the Election Commission on Friday announced the Assembly dates in 4 states and the Union Territory of Puducherry since it has not yet firmed up the division of the seats despite entering into the alliance deals early this month. Except for constituting various committees for the elections, the Congress has not identified the seats in any state on which it wants to contest as part of the alliances. A senior party leader said the Congress has repeated the same old mistake of delaying the seat distribution with the allies that should have been completed by now.
Even worse, the Congress is yet to start talks with its allies it identified to take on the BJP in forthcoming elections, the party leader said, adding, the Grand Old Party (GOP) will have to decide the seats and finalise the candidates in a haste. He said the Congress has not yet held any discussions with the parties it wants to go to the polls on the poll issues and the minimum joint programme. The party leadership always announces the party’s manifesto and candidates 2 months ahead of the polls, but it keeps the prospective candidates in suspense by never doing so and thus not helping them start nursing the constituencies early. —Our Bureau