PCCs nominate Rahul Gandhi as president: Can he revive Congress state units?
On a high after the positive response to his election campaign in Gujarat, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is most likely to take over as the party president near Diwali. Sources have even informed Catch that Rahul's elevation could happen on 19 November, which coincides with the birth anniversary of his grandmother, former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Once Rahul takes over, his first acid test would be to choose presidents of various state units that have become hot bed of factionalism resulting in party flailing poll performances across the country. These differences in state units have been detrimental to party's interests particularly when it comes to taking on the political forces that have take over the space once considered to be Congress bastions.
It is for this reason that Rahul's elevation is crucial for party's interests considering it has a much bigger task at hand in 2019 when it takes on Narendra Modi who is looking for a second term as prime minister. Therefore, these internal elections hold key to how Congress would move forward since Rahul in his new avatar would get to choose his own team. Only time will tell whether his interventions could lead to party's revival across the country.
Meanwhile, the organisational polls of the grand old party will end this week with all states likely to pass resolutions requesting Rahul to take over as president and authorising the party president to decide on the state unit chiefs of various units across the country.
Nearly all states have so far passed these resolutions and rest are expected to do it by the end of this week which will pave way for Rahul to take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi who is Congress' longest serving president. Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand passed the resolution on Thursday while Punjab is expected to do it on Friday. Tamil Nadu state unit was the first to pass such these resolutions.
According to a party leader, the process of zeroing down on state unit chiefs will happen after the new president is elected. This means that once Rahul becomes the president, he will be given the freedom to choose his own team which will also stamp his authority on the main opposition party.
Sorting through the chaos
The state is a classic example of how factionalism had almost led to a split in the party forcing the high command to intervene and remove Ashok Chaudhary as president and appoint Kaukab Qadri as working president. Qadri is expected to be relieved of his duties once Rahul takes over.
Apparently, the state unit was not too happy with Qadri's elevation which reflected in how many state legislators and leaders skipped his swearing in ceremony. The hunt for the new president is still on amid reports of differences in the various camps in the state unit.
There are a lot of names which are doing the rounds and there has a demand from the state leadership that a upper caste, Brahmin or Bhumihar, be given a chance to lead the state Congress.
A section of the leadership believes that all other communities have been given opportunity to lead the party and it is time for an upper caste to take reigns of Bihar Congress. Among those being considered for the top post include Akhilesh Singh, Madan Mohan Jha, PC Mishra, Shakeel Ahmed, among others.
Similarly, factionalism within the Haryana unit has been brewing for a while and the party is divided in two camps led by state president Ashok Tanwar and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. With Tanwar's three-year tenure ending this year, state leaders have been requesting the high command to let Hooda replace Tanwar.
His supporters are also prodding Hooda to resign if he is not given the chance to lead the state unit and it remains to be seen whether the Rahul would give in to these pressure tactics. Meanwhile, there are other names in the fray including that of Kuldeep Bishnoi, chief spokesperson RS Surjewala and former minister Selja Kumari.
The situation is alarming in Maharashtra too where senior leaders have raised the banner of revolt against incumbent state chief Ashok Chavan and want him to be replaced. Apparently, several leaders from the Vidharbha region have been complaining to the high command about Chavan and want him to be shown the door.
Among those being considered for the top post include veteran leader Vilas Muttemwar, Nitin Raut, Prithiviraj Chavan, among others. Considered close to both Sonia and Rahul, Chavan, if replaced, is likely to be moved to Delhi and appointed as a national general secretary.
Even in Madhya Pradesh, confusion prevails over whether incumbent chief Ajay Bhatt would be allowed to continue or would the reigns of the party be handed over to someone else. Speculation is rife that Lok Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia could be asked to lead the party in the state that goes to poll in 2018.
Recently, senior leader Kamal Nath backed the idea of Scindia being named as the party's chief ministerial candidate which suggests that the Nath camp has given up its claim on leading the party's charge in 2018 assembly polls. This development comes as a major relief for the party that was hoping for a showdown between the Scindia and Nath factions.
Sources informed that it is almost certain that Scindia will be projected as the party's chief ministerial candidate to take on the BJP which has been in power for the last 14 years.
In fact, a change of guard is almost certain in Odisha too where knives are out against state president Harichandan who is being blamed for the party 's disastrous recent poll performances.
Earlier in September, Rahul met with 35 leaders from the state and assured them that a major decision is on the cards. Moreover, a team of three senior leaders were sent as observers to the state to assess the situation which should help Rahul in taking a decision.
In the southern state of Kerala, factionalism has been wrecking havoc on the party unity which has for long not been addressed. However, what has made things easier for Rahul is the state government decision to order probe against Oomen Chandy in the Solar scam. This has forced his dominant faction on the back foot.
It is unlikely that any of the leaders belonging to Chandy faction will now be considered for the post of state chief as most of them have cases of corruption against them. In these circumstances, Rahul is likely to take a decision on his own and not go for the consensus approach being propagated by the state unit. It remains to be seen who Rahul deems fit to lead and whether he/she can unite the the state unit that has been a hotbed of factionalism.
Several other states are facing similar troubles and it is upto Rahul now to get to the core of these differences and try and sort them out strategically. If he succeeds, Congress should be a formidable opponent to BJP, which has come under severe criticism for its handling of the economy.