In line with the party’s decision to conduct internal elections between August and September 2022, speculation is rife over Rahul Gandhi’s nomenclature. For his part, the Gandhi scion has maintained a strategic silence to appeals within the Congress for him to become president again. It may be recalled that RaGa resigned as the party president and Sonia Gandhi took over as the interim president in 2019.
RaGa has emerged the angry young man of Indian polity. In recent times, he has proved his aggressive stand on issues, while clearly adhering to the bounds of democratic rules. Even as the BJP projects him as “all noise no merit,” judicious political analysts hold him as a threat to the saffron brigade. Perhaps that explains the need to nip him in the bud.
The election process is likely to end by September 20, if all goes as per plan. As the date nears, there is growing anticipation over what Rahul Gandhi’s approach will be vis-à-vis the elections, and whether the party is looking to position him as the president once again. All India Congress Committee (AICC) leaders have reported the many appeals made to Rahul Gandhi by party members to reclaim the post of the president.
“He isn’t explicitly agreeing to this. Perhaps he is open to the prospect but does not want commit before time,” an AICC functionary shared.
The hesitation in Gandhi expressly showing interest in the post may come from two reasons. One, lately Gandhi has reiterated multiple times that he is “not interested in power.” Earlier this year, in April, he stated at an event: “I was born in Centre of power but honestly, I am not interested.”
And second, the leader might not want it to seem like he is jeopardising the “fair” election process, by seeming too eager. “He is aware of the criticism that is thrown our (Congress’) way. BJP has slandered the party as a dynastic rule, that any kind of consensus reached here is a façade and only one family dictates everything ultimately. That might be making him more cautious,” the functionary added.
However, even with Rahul not officially announcing his interest in the party president’s post, a build-up of sorts has placed him as the “obvious choice.” Or, as some argue, the path was cleverly engineered to look as a natural fallout to various issues, and in the midst of it all, RaGa as the popular voice.
The recent protests against rising prices held by Congress, with its top leaders including Gandhi hitting the roads and even getting detained by the Delhi police, is a case in point. Added, he will also be leading the Bharat Jodo (Unite India) yatra starting from September 7.
The party has said it is going to organise yatras from “Kashmir to Kanyakumari” across 12 states and two Union Territories in 15 days and would cover a distance of 3,500 km. The grand old party will also organise a mehengai chaupal at all mandis and retail markets in all Vidhan Sabha constituencies from August 17 to August 23. This campaign will culminate in the party’s “mehengai pe halla bol” rally at New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on August 28.
While the party does organise such rallies from time to time, Rahul Gandhi doesn’t always lead them or is present in them. This, analysts hold, may be to position him as the next party president.
“There is more of Rahul we are witnessing in our deliberations, as well as on the field in our protests. This ought to re-energise the party cadre,” another leader said.
While spearheading mass movements will catapult him into limelight, the allied implication also holds true. “The message that he is around works wonders to boost party morale. So, even if he were not to assume the seat of power and thus prove that Congress does not work with nepotism, the fact that his mentorship is available will help revive the waning strength. This would also mean other party leaders stand a chance to throw their hats in the ring,” explained another senior-level source.
Among names doing the rounds, the top contenders are DK Shivakumar and Mallikarjun Kharge.