Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi is still recovering from the Covid-19 bout in home isolation, but he ventured out on Friday to ‘Veer Bhumi’ here to place flowers at the memorial of his father Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary and remembered him for “Truth, Compassion, Progress.”
Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi, who preferred not to venture out of home even on this solemn day, was quick to sense Rahul can be put on the job to sort out the deepening differences in the party in the Congress-ruled Punjab and Rajasthan.
Her decision to make Rahul start cracking even before he is fully recovered signals a possibility she may soon ask the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to pass a resolution asking him to take over as the party president irrespective of if he is willing or not. Sources said Rahul will have to fall in line to lead the Congress as no other member can defy the resolve of the CWC, the highest decision-making body whose resolve cannot be overruled by a Rahul decision.
An immediate task assigned to him involves interacting with party leaders in Punjab and Rajasthan through the video-conferencing from the confines of his home. His first task is to iron out differences in the Punjab Congress and the government and tame cricketer-turned-politician rebel Navjot Singh Sidhu creating factionalism against Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
Rahul has scheduled one-to-one virtual meetings with Punjab minisers, MLAs and MPs. He will be meeting over 15 each day. Sonia assigned him the job after talking to Amarinder on leaders refusing to meet AICC general secretary Harish Rawat, a former Uttarakhand CM and in-charge of the Punjab affairs.
In Rajasthan, the second state where Rahul plans to speak on video, the party’s worry is about the resignation by Congress MLA Hemaram Choudhary, a 6-time MLA from Barmer and a sharp critic of CM Ashok Gehlot. He was one of the 19 MLAs, who rebelled under the leadership of then Deputy CM Sachin Pilot.
Before Rahul reaches him to pacify, Rajasthan PCC chief Govind Singh Dotasara hailed Choudhary for his contributions to the Congress and exuded confidence to convince him to withdraw resignation. Neither Gehlot nor Assembly Speaker Dr CP Joshi has accepted Choudhary’s resignation.
The leadership is keeping an eye on Pilot who has landed in Jaipur and praised Choudhary, pointing out he has been leader of Opposition in the Assembly and even a cabinet minister. This is second time since the 2018 elections that Choudhary has sent in his resignation, first in 2019 during the first session of the reconstituted Assembly as he was aggrieved at Gehlot not taking him in the Cabinet. He has been the revenue minister in an earlier Gehlot cabinet from 2008 to 2013.
Sources said Rahul will speak to Pilot first to judge at any possibility of another revolt he may be brewing and then talk to Choudhary as well as at least about a dozen other leaders in Rajasthan. Though the Assembly elections in the state are far away in December 2023, the leadership is worried that the repeated revolts within the party will weaken it, particularly because of the signs the growing dissatisfaction among the party MLAs.
They said Rahul has sought an assessment of the political scenario in the state from AICC general secretary Ajay Maken, in-charge of Rajasthan affairs, before he starts ringing up the party leaders after finishing his first task of Punjab in his hand.