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Gandhis and the TINA factor in India’s Congress party

Within the Congress also, the entire blame cannot be put at the door of the Gandhis

Vinod Aggarwal Mar 21, 2022
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Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi (Photo: Twitter)

As in the recent past, this time also the Congress party held a meeting of its Congress Working Committee (CWC) to review its shameful electoral results in five states. The real purpose of all these post-election meetings is to convey to the world that irrespective of winning or losing elections, the entire party is always solidly behind the Gandhi family and there is no Congress without the Gandhis.

This time, an "extended CWC" meeting was held in New Delhi on March 13. The Italy-born Sonia Gandhi, 75 and widow of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Pryanka Gandhi Vadra offered on behalf of herself and her children to "step back" from the Congress leadership. As on all similar occasions in the past, all party faithful "pleaded" with the Gandhis to continue to lead the party. 

It will be interesting to understand how the Gandhis stage manage such massive show of support defeat after defeat. 

President nominates 

This seemingly impossible feat is achieved by a carefully planned and crafted "loyalty programme". Sonia Gandhi has been party president from April 1998. During this period there have never been any organizational elections. In the absence of elections, the party's constitution authorizes the party president to nominate office bearers of various party committees like CWC, the highest decision making body the All India Congress Committee (AICC), which comprises the plenary, the Pradesh (state) Congress Committee (PCC),  and District Congress Committee (DCC). Since there have been no elections, none of the present CWC members are elected. They all have been nominated by the party president. 

The Congress president nominates all members of CWC and they in turn "elect" him or her as president. If at all elections to CWC are held, members of AICC who elect members of CWC are also hand-picked by Sonia Gandhi. And so on it goes down to
PCCs and DCCs. 

The party constitution provides for a 25-member CWC including the Congress president, Leader of Congress Parliamentary Party, 12 members to be elected by AICC and 11 to be nominated by the Congress president. Thus, even under the party constitution, preeminence is given to the party president. There is almost no chance of the CWC ever voting against the president, which invariably is one of the Gandhis. 

G-23’s cold feet 

Before the March 13 CWC meeting, the pro-change group called G-23 had suggested that only members of the original CWC should be invited and not others like permanent or special invitees. Even this demand of the G-23 was turned down. As per media reports, 52 members of the “extended CWC" attended the meeting. A resolution requesting the Gandhis to continue in the leadership role was passed unanimously. Even the pro-change lobby headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad voted in favour of the Gandhis.

But let us be fair to the Gandhis. Neither Sonia Gandhi is the only Congress president to preside over a hand-picked CWC nor is this great tradition of a leader surrounding himself/herself with 'yes men' confined only to the Congress.

Under their constitution, the president of the BJP is supposed to be elected by members of an electoral college comprising members of the national and state councils. But in reality, it does not happen this way. The party president is selected  - not elected - by consensus by an unidentified group of "senior leaders".  

BJP and Congress 

However, there are some differences with the Congress. In BJP, the presidents do not come from one single family and they hold office for a maximum of two terms of three years each. No continuous three terms. A past president may return to office after a gap. Since the formation, of BJP in 1980, there have been 11 presidents -- Atal Bihari Vajpayee being the first and J.P. Nadda being the current incumbent. 

Within the Congress also, the entire blame cannot be put at the door of the Gandhis. It also appears to be a typical case of TINA -- There Is No Alternative. So far, the G-23 has always developed cold feet at the right time. They have not shown any serious desire to go all out against the Gandhis. They say they only want "an effective and visible" leadership and that they are not against Gandhis. 

If nobody wants Gandhis to leave the party leadership, what can the Gandhis do? 

(The author is a former journalist. Views are personal) 

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