A fortnight after she returned as Congress president, Sonia Gandhi has begun an exercise to revamp the AICC secretariat and some state units. Many in the party, however, argued that a mere tweak here and there would be meaningless, and that the party should be focusing on getting its messaging right, especially on issues of ideology and nationalism, to effectively counter the BJP.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, AICC general secretary in-charge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, also met leaders from the state to discuss the way ahead.
While the Congress high command has effected a leadership change in the election-bound states of Maharashtra and Jharkhand, Haryana is proving to be a headache. Finding new presidents for Madhya Pradesh and Delhi too is tricky because of factional feud.
Internal tussles amid changed landscape
Sonia Gandhi’s meetings with party leaders from Delhi, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have not evoked much interest among party functionaries outside these states even as the party struggles to define itself in the changed political landscape. Amid the deliberations in UP, many leaders admitted in private that the need of the hour is bring clarity on issues like ideology and nationalism and figure out the right message.
Sonia discussed the issue with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Friday. Sources said Nath, who is now the PCC president, is in favour of former Mahila Congress chief Shobha Oza or home minister Bala Bachchan. The Jyotiraditya Scindia faction is not agreeable, and there is speculation that Scindia, a Congress Working Committee member, is himself interested in taking over as state Congress president. There are many other contenders, among them former minister Ajay Singh and former MP Ramniwas Rawat.
Nath’s meeting with Sonia coincided with rumours that Scindia had threatened to quit the party if he was not made PCC chief. Scindia did not speak about the issue, or respond to calls. When asked about the rumours, Nath told reporters “I don’t think he is unhappy or angry.”
Scindia was recently made chairman of the screening committee for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra. However, his supporters, including a couple of ministers in MP, have expressed unhappiness over his being given responsibility in another state. A handful of supporters raised slogans outside the PCC office in Bhopal on Friday that Scindia be made PCC chief. Legislators close to him argued that he had played an equal role in the Congress winning the Assembly elections in MP and should be compensated for his effort.
Sonia also had a meeting with Haryana CLP leader Kiran Choudhary. On Thursday, she had a meeting with former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who has virtually raised a banner of revolt demanding the removal of state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar. The party is yet to find a formula that is acceptable to all the factions.
A section of the party believes a change of guard in the deeply divided Haryana Congress just two months before Assembly elections will be counter-productive. Those close to Tanwar appeared confident that he would continue till the elections, but sources did not rule out the possibility of appointment of Hooda’s son and former MP Deepender as one of the working presidents to placate the veteran.
The party’s Delhi unit is headless since the death of Sheila Dikshit. Sonia had a meeting with former president Arvinder Singh Lovely and A K Walia. But there is no unanimity among Delhi leaders on Dikshit’s successor.
Priyanka, meanwhile, met a group of leaders from UP to discuss organisational revamp and the way ahead for the party. The Congress wants to replace Raj Babbar and appoint a new PCC president in UP.
— With inputs from Milind Ghatwai in Bhopal