NEW DELHI: The anointing of Rahul Gandhi
as the Congress
president is almost a foregone conclusion after the schedule for the election of the party’s organisational election was announced in the meeting of its highest decision-making body Congress Working Committee (CWC) on October 16. Though the G23
(group of 23 senior dissenting leaders) has been demanding major reforms, collective decision-making and full-time visible leadership in the party, none of its members would actually contest if “any of the three Nehru-Gandhi family leaders decides to stand for the election of the president’s post”.
Talking to TOI on the condition of anonymity, a senior leader of the G23 said, “Though we have been demanding inner party reforms from time to time, none of us would contest if Sonia Gandhi
, Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra
decide to contest for election to the Congress president’s post.”
The leader further said, “One among us would certainly fight the election if it is held in a fair manner, which is, if none of the three Nehru-Gandhi family members contests for the party president’s post.”
The senior Congress leader was of the view that an election for the party president’s post could be fair only if no one from the Nehru-Gandhi family stood in it. “Otherwise, anyone who contests against the Nehru-Gandhis is bound to lose,” the G23 member said.
As declared by Congress general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal, the election for the post of party president would be held between August 21, 2022 and September 20, 2022.
A sample of the G23 capitulating to the Nehru-Gandhis was witnessed when at least two of its members - Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma - who were vocal for inner-party reforms, joined the chorus to re-anoint Rahul Gandhi as the party president during the last CWC meet.
In the meeting, Sonia said: “I am, if you will allow me to say so, a full-time and hands-on Congress president."
It was seen as a direct rebuttal to what senior leaders like Kapil Sibal
, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma have been raising about the "sorry state of affairs" in the party.
The G23 feels anyone who contests against the Nehru-Gandhis would meet the fate of late Jitendra Prasada. They also cite the example of late Rajesh Pilot.
Former senior Congress leader Jitendra Prasada, father of Uttar Pradesh minister Jitin Prasada who switched to the BJP in June this year, had contested against Sonia for the party president's post in November 2000. He was convincingly defeated by her.
Similarly, former Union minister Rajesh Pilot, father of Rajasthan former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, had also challenged Sonia Gandhi on two occasions. In 1998, Pilot Sr planned to contest the party’s president’s post against Sonia. However, he withdrew at the last moment
after some top party leaders convinced him to give up the idea.
Again in the year 2000, Rajesh Pilot planned to contest the organisational election for the president’s post. He, along with Jitendra Prasada, held a massive rally the same year on May 21 - former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary. But his plan could not materialise as he died in a road accident on June 11 the same year.
Even Jitin Prasada had to face immense protest from within the party’s UP unit for being one of the 23 signatories to the letter written to Sonia Gandhi ahead of the CWC meet on August 24, 2020.
The Lakhimpur Kheri district unit of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) had demanded action against all the 23 signatories, especially Jitin Prasada because he was the only one among the dissenters from the state.
Meanwhile, since Jitin Prasada has joined the BJP, the G23 has effectively become G22.