The impressive show of strength from among the opposition ranks at Kapil Sibal’s residence yesterday has many significant political imports. The development is all set to intensify the power struggle within the grand old party.
First and foremost, Gandhis are not most sought after by the non-BJP-NDA opposition. Sibal may have been within his rights not to invite the Gandhi trio — Sonia, Rahul, and Priyanka what was ostensibly his birthday bash. But the weighty presence of Laloo Yadav, Sharad Pawar, and representatives from Shrimoni Akali Dal, BJP, AAP etc seeks to signal at non-NDA opposition’s preference for a non-Gandhi leadership. The fact that the gathering at 8, Teen Murti Lane was fundamentally a G23’s show of strength, the guest list is being compared with Rahul Gandhi’s breakfast invite for representatives of 14 opposition parties which had more party representatives than leaders in the mold of Pawar, Akhilesh Yadav, Laloo Yadav and others.
More glaring is shocking are some of the pronouncements against Gandhis. in the good old time of Indira Gandhi, a Naresh Gujral of that era may have been politely asked to leave by the host or observe greater restrain. When Pinaki Mishra raised the issue that there was nobody from the Congress to talk to them ( that is BJD) the absence of a rejoinder from the likes of Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik, Prithviraj Chavan etc was glaring.
Informally, Gandhi camp has all along flaunted its proximity and trust in Laloo, Abdullahs, and Sitaram Yechury. But the zeal and comfort level of some of the existing UPA constituents at Sibal’s residence was a reminder of Laloo’s campaign during the Bihar election campaign many moons ago where he had dubbed a certain political individual as a ‘vilayti murgi.’
The only consolation for Gandhis is that August 2021 is not a repeat of August 2020 when 10, Janpath had received a rather rude and open letter signed by G-23 expressing dissatisfaction with the Congress leadership [read Gandhis]. the defiance has continued till date even though Sonia Gandhi has made consistent efforts to wean them away, cajole them and try to break. A year later she is actively considering bringing in ace political strategist Prashant Kishor in the Congress fold, G 23 is signalling that it would neither budge nor accept their irrelevance.
Congress rebels or dissenters are not known for their knock-out punches but like to score a victory on technical points, optics, and positionings.
The road to 2024 is bumpy and chaotic for the non-BJP, non-NDA. the gathering at Sibal has collectively exhibited that it is also becoming a party to the internal power struggle within the Congress.
It is not that Gandhis are without friends or clout. Rahul is an unconventional politician and unlikely to get bogged down by 8, Teen Murti Lane politically laced dinners. his mantra has been simple and courageous. just as Rahul let Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasad and a host of other leaders go, cross over to the greener pastures, he is prepared to let anyone leave the Congress. G 23, in this context, finds itself out of depth to dislodge or edge out the Gandhis within the Congress parivar. Omar Abdullah was perhaps spot on when he told friends at Sibal’s house that without the Congress, the opposition story will be a nonstarter.
Rahul’s stand on Narendra Modi’s “inept” handling of second wave of Covid 19, vaccination shortage, his stand on the Rafale deal has earned him a statue of sorts. Rahul’s focus on taking on the Modi regime on the Pegasus snooping row has been visible too. He has bluntly been asking, “Did the Government of India bought Pegasus? Yes or No. Did the government use Pegasus weapon against its own people?”
In the next few weeks, the Congress story will start unfolding. Some say August 20, Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary is an important date. You heard it here first.