The Congress party today is at its nadir. It has lost the national elections, many State Assembly elections and was reduced to absolute zero in the New Delhi elections. The party is in a shambles and there is no leadership worth the name. All calls for Rahul Gandhi to take over the party have died down and the calls for Priyanka to take over have become less strident. In such times, a Sonia Gandhi is now directing attention to herself and away from her children, more particularly, Rahul Gandhi.
She led a protest march of her party MPs to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence in a show of support. And now has taken a lead in protesting the Land Acquisition Bill and positioning herself as a leader in protecting farmers’ interest. The AICC session which was to be held in April and in which Rahul was proposed to be named as the new Congress head is now being postponed and the message to the party cadres and the country seems to be that Sonia will remain in charge. This show of leadership and aggression is required to hold the party ranks together subsequent to the rout in the Delhi elections.
Sonia’s attacks have also more recently been targeted directly at Modi. Sonia is astute and is now sensing an opportunity for the Congress to grab at least the space of the Opposition. The BJP has lost the Delhi elections and the Sangh is making minorities nervous with its utterances. The AAP is seeing infighting reducing it to the level of all other political parties. The Congress can now position itself as a secular opposition. And the time to act is now, before the AAP can pick itself up again, for Sonia realizes that it is the AAP that is the real threat to the ‘secular’ tag of the Congress.
Sonia is also keeping the seat warm for Rahul. Although Rahul is unlikely to return with any fresh ideas for the party, Sonia needs to ensure that there is a party in the first place for her son to return to. The Congress is looking for some real aggressive opposition and muscle flexing, with a hope of seeing some power in Congress hands in the not so distant future. Further, the witch hunt of Narendra Modi during his stint as Chief Minister of Gujarat could not have been carried out without her blessings. And to see him emerge out of it unscathed to lead the BJP to victory must have been a hard pill to swallow. All the bitterness is now surfacing in her now personal attacks against Modi and his government.
The Congress has always ruled the country by keeping the Centre strong and handing out power to the states at its whim. Modi has given federalism a push and is rooting for state autonomy. Congress will find it hard to step back to centralisation of power even if it returns to power at the centre. Therefore, Modi needs to be stopped now. However, with the unexplainable absence of Rahul, and the unity of the Opposition slipping away, all Sonia’s efforts may be too little too late.