“Reluctant crown prince”, he is not yet ready to “shoulder responsibility” – these are descriptions often tossed around to describe Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi’s heir apparent who has the unenviable task of bringing the grand old party out of the current morass.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) – which now meets rarely – managed to change this dominant narrative about the Nehru-Gandhi scion yesterday, although if sources are to be believed, the majority of the CWC were not in the know despite receiving calls from the AICC asking them to be present in the “important meeting.”
The CWC converted his elevation into a mere formality months ahead of key assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The timing is important: a drubbing in the heartland state could have once again raised questions on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership abilities, not just because he was leading the campaign from the front but since many top leaders already feel upset and sidelined in the Prashant Kishor-controlled campaign.
A K Antony, the soft-spoken family loyalist who has the blessings of Sonia Gandhi, ensured that there was no stumbling block to his elevation. Old timers in the party say Sonia’s absence from the meeting and Antony’s mention of Rahul’s elevation – which was not on the agenda of the meeting – at the very start of the meeting were clear signals that the decision had been taken and all those present just had to play their roles according to the script.
Sources said the attempt is first to alter the perception about Rahul – his street fights last week were not without reason – and then to ensure his elevation is presented as a fait accompli before the state elections. It is not that there is any other contender for the top post but Congressmen, especially of the veteran variety, prefer the cozy comfort of the status quo. Rahul is keenly aware of this.
In fact, sources said he mentioned in his concluding address to the CWC that he is aware that there are two views on the timing of the elevation (now or later) in the party and he was comfortable with both. He also sought to allay the fears of sections of what has come to be called `the old guard’ saying he had come to realise the value of experience in the last 12 years.
While Rahul is ready to wait, many in the party are not.
Sources said four general secretaries – Gurudas Kamat, Ambika Soni, CP Joshi and Mohan Prakash – wanted the CWC to finalise his elevation and pass a resolution. Veteran Karan Singh and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh felt the transition should be carried out in a graceful and methodical manner and not in a hurry.
The CWC members will now go to Sonia Gandhi and urge her to appoint her son as the Congress president and she will heed the strong sentiment of the CWC to hand over the mantle to her son. Sonia will be seen to defer to the “wishes of the CWC” and “crores of Congressmen,” a senior leader said, not without a tinge of sarcasm.