The Congress leadership has a full schedule after the announcement of results of five state assemblies on March 6.
Sources say that a big shake-up is on the cards and this includes the appointment and transfer of a number of governors, decisions on Rajya Sabha seats, which so far have been kept pending, changes in the AICC and later changes in the government also, which may be after the budget session ends at the end of May.
It is learnt that the Bihar CLP leader and ex-speaker Sadanand Singh is the frontrunner for the governorship of Rajasthan which has been vacant for some time now with Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil holding dual charge of Rajasthan also. Sadanand Singh who is being strongly backed by AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh was one of the 4 to win the Bihar assembly elections from the Congress party. The other three are Muslims.
Senior leader and former youth Congress president Ram Chander Rath is being mentioned as the next Bihar Governor. He is being backed by Ghulam Nabi Azad. Rath is one of the better Congress leaders who have been non-controversial and out of mainstream Congress politics for quite some time.
The current Bihar Governor Devanad Kunwar who is from Assam may be shifted to Tripura. The High Court had passed strictures against him for the wrong appointment of a vice chancellor. Backed by the Prime Minister, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, Kunwar has been in the news for all the wrong reasons and has become controversial.
However, while a number of governors are expected to be transferred, the West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan is unlikely to be touched and would continue in his post.
It is learnt that the Congress leadership is expected to fully apply its mind on the remainder of the governors and Rajya Sabha nominations after the results are out. Some leaders whose term as Rajya Sabha MPs is ending may be adjusted as governors. This includes Desari Naraynan Rao.
A number of leaders who are currently in the AICC are trying hard to find a berth in the upper house. Shakeel Ahmed who is incharge of Bihar is trying for a Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand, Suresh Pachauri is trying from Madhya Pradesh again and this time Swaroopanand may again put in a word for him as happened in the past. Not to be left out, sources say that Digvijaya Singh may also be a candidate from Madhya Pradesh.
Sources say that this time around, Rahul Gandhi will also have a say in the appointment of Governors as well as Rajya Sabha MPs. This was not the practice in the past when Sonia Gandhi and her advisors would take the final call on these appointments. Rahul was not known to interfere, content to confine himself to the youth Congress and the NSUI.
With the resignation of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee chief Kripa Shanker Singh after the High Court ordered an investigation against him, one of the young MPs known to be particularly close to Rahul Gandhi, Milind Deora is in the race for the Mumbai post. There are others also, but it remains to be seen how much Rahul pushes for Deora.
With four phases of the UP elections over, there are only three more phases remaining where the Muslims have a dominant and decisive role to play in the areas going to the polls now, Bareilly Sharief, a prestigious seat of Muslim clergy, has issued a fatwa for Muslims to vote in favour of the Congress party. For the Congress, the next three phases are crucial to get seats as a great deal of dynamics of the Congress party could change after the UP results.
If the Congress does well in UP, the clamour for Rahul to take centre stage and become the Prime Minister or even the Congress president could become stronger and louder. If the Congress fails to get seats, the process could slow down somewhat, as happened in Bihar and could be a bit of a dent on his leadership.
But what is clear, with or without the seats is that the UP election is the story of the coming of age of Rahul Gandhi where he has shown that he is capable of hard work and going all out to get what he wants: the revival of the Congress organisation in UP. The fact that he has been a lone crusader with no help from either the party or a poor organisation set-up has not deterred him in any way.
It is the story of the political maturing of Rahul Gandhi and this maturing is expected to be visible in the large number of decisions which will be taken both at the party and government levels in the months ahead. The fact that Mom Sonia took a back seat in UP and has been largely quiet on most issues, clearly indicates that the transition may be sooner rather than later.
In the event that the Congress gets enough seats to be the kingmaker in UP, the first big test for Rahul’s leadership would be whether he would go ahead and help form a government in UP with Congress support and participation or whether he would stick to his stated position that the Congress would not support any party to form the government in UP.
There would be a great deal of pressure from the government and sections of the party to bolster up the UPA numbers at the centre by tying up with Mulayam Singh Yadav. Would Rahul yield to the pressure?
And then there is the question of the election of the Vice-President and President of India in June-July this year where again the Congress would require numbers from UP with the support of regional parties to make up the numbers. Mamata Banerjee is on a permanent war path and it remains to be seen how long she sticks to the UPA at the centre.
For Rahul, it’s not just a question of reviving the party in UP but in addition the need to link up the UP performance with how the Congress-led UPA government at the centre is to continue to perform with the general election still two years away.
By Renu Mittal