A Revolt Or Kamraj Plan?
“The Congress is in Intensive Care and the Government is in a coma”. These are not the sentiments of an Opposition leader but of a union minister in the UPA government called Jairam Ramesh who is also billed as a congressman known to be close to both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
Sources say that the entire drama enacted on television screen last week of 4 to 5 ministers resigning and being drafted for party work was the handiwork of the union Panchayat Raj Minister Jairam Ramesh who is known to talk first and think later.
It is learnt that he has been identified by the Congress leadership as the man who fed the television channels the news of the letters written by these ministers offering to work for the party, which led to intense and immense speculation that major changes were in the offing in the congress party.
Sources said that during a strategy meeting held at the residence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi on April 24, where senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee, AK Antony, P Chidambaram, Pawan Bansal, Ahmed Patel were present along with Jairam Ramesh and Salman Khurshid, Jairam Ramesh was “told off” by both Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee for the news reports and he was told to curb his tendency to become over pally with the media and to refrain from giving out such stories. He was sternly told not to do it in the future when he tried to explain his point of view.
Interestingly he was called for a meeting with Rahul Gandhi but whether he sought time or whether he was called is not clear.
What is however clear is that a power struggle has begun in the Congress party as the party has developed immense cracks after the successive defeats in assembly elections beginning with UP with ministers gunning for each other and sources saying that there is a mood that if the leadership does not bring in a political prime minister, it may be difficult for the congress to continue like this.
Sonia Gandhi from outside and Manmohan Singh from inside has been the mantra of the UPA Government but this has boomeranged within the party with senior ministers of the view that the time had come for the prime minister to go. Along with this, the feeling is fast catching up in the Congress that the current style of functioning of the Congress president cannot continue as it has led to indecision, apathy as well as a virtual paralysis of the party and government policies.
What Jairam Ramesh has triggered off is just a pin prick which could work as an explosion within the party and government.
A senior leader said, “there is revolt brewing in both the government and the party and if Sonia Gandhi does not heed the warning and act quickly it could lead to the collapse of the government and the party. Such comments in the Congress are only voiced when there is a sinking feeling of doom and when the leadership is not able to deliver on votes and with the party facing successive defeats.
Interestingly, Salman Khurshid who is said to be the target of both Rahul Gandhi and Jairam Ramesh had written to the Congress president after the UP defeat saying a number of things went wrong, along with criticizing that all is not well with the Congress organisation and offering to work for the party whenever it is required. Sources say that Rahul Gandhi is not happy with Salman Khurshid as the Law Minister as he is getting a large number of reports of various dealings in the ministry for various considerations.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the senior most leaders of the Congress party and a known loyalist is said to be deeply unhappy over a number of factors including the situation in Andhra Pradesh of which he is incharge as the AICC General Secretary. Despite his best efforts he could not bring in Andhra Pradesh leader Shabir Ali known to be close to him into the Rajya Sabha and he finds that there is constant interference in his running of Andhra Pradesh.
There has been talk of a large number of changes at various levels in the organization and government but Sonia Gandhi appears to be forever procrastinating and does not take decisions. She is not able to assert herself over key issues and even on the issue of selecting the next president, the party has not initiated any moves to establish dialogue with either the Opposition or its own allies.
The NCP Chief Sharad Pawar met Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday amidst speculation that he wanted to discuss the next Presidential nominee so that it should be decided well in advance rather than waiting for the last minute like the last time when Pratibha Patil came out like a rabbit out of a hat after the assembled leaders went through a directory of names of Governors and picked out Pratibha Patil as a random choice. A choice which was not described as exactly one of the best that the party could have made.
With the Congress having to depend on either Mulayam Singh Yadav or Mamta Banerjee to get the next president elected, the party has not yet opened its cards as it has not zeroed in on a suitable candidate.
Sources say that Mulayam Singh Yadav would be willing to do business with the Congress party but he wants his brother Ram Gopal Yadav as the Vice President and is willing to support Pranab Mukherjee as the Presidential candidate. Sources say that all parties are willing to support Pranab Mukherjee including Mamta and the Left but strangely it is learnt that Sonia Gandhi has given no clear indications on whether she wants Pranab. Large sections of the party still feel that there is a trust deficit between her and Pranab but so far there is nothing to suggest that she is interested in bringing in competent leaders in the correct slots rather than show boys and girls who can make no dents in their castes nor are they seen as competent.
By Renu Mittal