Why making Priyanka Gandhi Congress president could be a folly?
New Delhi, July 25: Congress' search for a new president has been going on for some time now and the latest name that cropped up was that of Priyanka Gandhi. Some source-based reports today claimed that Priyanka Gandhi turned down requests to take over as Congress president.
The very fact that she was considered would again send a negative message among the public. There is no doubt that Congress must re-invent itself and the need of the hour is to shun the image that it is 'Gandhi family' party. The term may sound crude, but that is exactly the image crisis that the Congress is dealing with. That is the line of attack that the BJP took during the election campaign. Modi raked up the issue of dynastic politics, and left no stone unturned to corner the Congress on this particular issue.
For one, Rahul Gandhi clearly knows this problem. After resigning as the Congress president, Rahul categorically said that a Gandhi should not be in the scheme of things while electing the next party president. Rahul Gandhi had reportedly said, while conveying his decision to give up the top job, "leave my sister out of it".
Congress has long been blamed for not having an 'internal-democracy. This was evident even when Rahul Gandhi was elevated to the party president's post.
It is more important than ever than a member who not from the Gandhi family is given the reins. That would go a long way in changing the perception people have about the party. People we spoke to clearly said that it is impossible to free the party from the clutches of the Gandhi family. That is the perception people have about the party and making Priyanka the president would only reinforce that belief which has done tremendous damage to the party.
Even during Rahul's elevation as party chief, a process was held, but there were no other contenders for the post. Shehzaad Poonawala spoke out in the open that he wanted to contest for president's post, but was shunned. The issue became public and Shehzaad finally left the party, but not before bringing to the notice of the masses that things were not transparent in the Congress.
There are layers in the Congress. What is called as the old guard comprising of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi loyalists, and the new guard which comprises of young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot. Congress appears to be split between the young and the old guard.
The reluctance of the old guard to change has come to the fore many times. Handing over of power to the new guard has been a problem, and it was evident when it came to choosing Chief Ministers for Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, after Congress won assembly elections in three states last year. In Rajasthan, both Sachin Pilot, who managed the campaign, and Ashok Gehlot, a veteran and former CM, staked a claim to the post. Many rounds of meetings were held, and Sachin Pilot even reportedly remained defiant. But, the final outcome was that Gehlot was chosen. That was the time, the party could have shown its willingness to change, something which the BJP has time and again pointed out. Similar thing happened when Kamal Nath was chosen over Jyotiraditya Scindia for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister's post. Scindia supporters were out on the streets of Bhopal, and almost seemed ready to rebel.
The MP-Rajasthan issue was amicably settled and nothing came out in the open, but the entire episode involving many rounds of meetings sent across a message that the party is still in the clutches of the 'old guard'. So, now is the time to change that perception and showcase that Congress can be a progressive and 'truly democratic' party.
And the progressiveness and right message is need of the hour on which the very existence of the party depends. Now that Rahul has made it absolutely clear that he does not want to be party chief, it remains to be seen who would be given the reins of the grand old party. Congress better show intent in trying to change and they better do it fast. The delay in appointing a president has given liberty to Congress' chief ministers and other powerful state leaders to run the show as per their whims and fancies whose price the Congress will have to pay in the future.