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Rahul not headed for any big role Congress In Disarray

Updated: July 28, 2012 2:54 pm

In an attempt to put an end to all speculation regarding Rahul Gandhi’s bigger and wider role in the Congress party, highly placed sources have said that he would neither become the Congress President nor the Prime Minister of the country till the 2014 general elections.

Sources said that there would be no major changes till then and all speculation to the contrary is meaningless. Congress leaders have been full of anticipation that Rahul Gandhi may be in line for a bigger or more meaningful role in the running of the party as the current status appears to give an impression of inaction as well as of status quo. Privately Congress leaders have been expressing their dissatisfaction at the manner in which Congress President Sonia Gandhi has withdrawn herself from any real attempt to infuse life back into a virtually moribund organisation and even Rahul Gandhi has not moved beyond the Youth Congress and the NSUI.

Rahul Gandhi did try to spread his wings beyond this when he handled the UP assembly elections but outright sabotage by partymen who did not want him to succed in UP and thereby get a bigger profile in the party and the failure of his election campaign to substantially improve the party’s tally appears to have dampened his spirits and left him disheartened and disinterested, at least for the time being.

But what has triggered the debate again is the very public statement made by the UPA Law Minister and senior Congress leader from UP Salman Khurshid who said that Rahul has not been able to go beyond his cameo role and has not been able to give any definitive ideology to the Congress. Calling him the No 2 in the party, Salman has been more than critical of the party leadership going to the extent of saying that in UPA II governance and politics have become intermingled and this has led to a slowdown of the economic reforms agenda as well as a slowdown in policy formation and implementation. This is being seen as a direct attack on Ahmed Patel and others close to 10 Janpath since it is the interference by the party which has led to a non-performance by the government.

Interestingly, senior Congress leaders are aghast at the strong criticism of Rahul Gandhi and the party leadership voiced by Salman Khurshid who according to them is actually saying that if the Prime Minister is an “underachiever”, then Rahul Gandhi is a bigger underachiever who does not want to give himself a clearly defined role in the party and the government.

Congress leaders say that Salman Khurshid appears to be batting on behalf of the Prime Minister who has been cut to the quick by the criticism leveled by the American Time magazine which has described him as an underachiever. And it is no secret in political circles that the Prime Minister takes criticism from the USA rather seriously, hence the attempt to hit back at the party.

There are those in the Prime Minister’s inner circle who feel that the party has tied the Prime Minister’s hands behind his back and are expecting him to deliver without giving him a free hand. The Prime Minister has been wanting a US-trained economist who believes with all his heart and soul in the reforms agenda to become the Finance Minister of the country but Congress President Sonia Gandhi has been unwilling to give a yes to this proposal. In 2009, she gave the job to Pranab Mukherjee who Manmohan Singh desperately wanted Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and now there are reports that she wants P Chidambaram back in the job of the Finance Minister.

It is learnt that a number of calls were made to Salman Khurshid by senior Congress leaders asking him to clarify the interview he gave to an English daily, and while he went before the media saying he had been misinterpreted he has nowhere backtracked from what he has said.

A senior Congress leader said what is disturbing in the entire episode is the message which has gone out that Sonia Gandhi looks and feels helpless in taking action against “oversmart ministers” who are virtually cocking a snook at her and Rahul Gandhi.

This has been going on in the party for some time now with Congress leaders taking pot shots at each other, but many leaders say that the strongest criticism against the leadership has come from Salman Khurshid.

There was also speculation that 10 Janpath had been receiving a number of reports that the Law Ministry had become an adda of big corporate business houses who were freely using the premises to get their records straight and to get favourable reports on some of their pending cases. It may be recalled that Salman Khurshid wrote to Sonia Gandhi offering to quit the government and work for the party but like most such decisions this one was also put on hold to be looked at another day. Sources in the Congress say that with Sonia Gandhi deeply disturbed by the UP result and how it would impact Rahul’s future politics, she is more and more becoming a victim of “putr moh” (love for the son) and has stopped taking decisions on crucial issues keeping most matters in the pending file.

A senior leader said in such a scenario, “what better way to lead an attack from up front than by targeting Rahul Gandhi as Salman Khurshid appears to have consciously done”. However, an AICC senior functionary said that Salman has clarified and that is the end of the matter. And then party leaders strongly clear the air of Rahul saying he is not headed for any big responsibility.

Be that on it may, the fact remains that party leaders are stumped at what is happening, why it is happening and how long can such a state of affairs continue. A senior leader said that Sonia Gandhi’s writ in the Congress appears to be diminishing even as there is no attempt to hand over the reigns of power to Rahul Gandhi even as there is no clarity on whether he would be ready or willing in even 2014, provided the people of the country still want to give the Congress a chance after the way it has run UPA II.

 By Renu Mittal

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