UPA’S NEXT PRIME-MINISTERIAL FACE: RAHUL’S NO AND YES, PRIYANKA STEPS IN, MANMOHAN INDICATES YET ANOTHER RUN

What it all foretells? Where is the confusion? It is either not needed or the issue is already sorted out.

First it was about Rahul Gandhi’s ‘I am not for prime minister’s chair’, then it was for ‘Rahul Gandhi’s statement on becoming prime minister was misinterpreted’, then it was about ‘Priyanka Gandhi might contest the next Lok Sabha elections from Rae Bareli’, further more, it was about ‘Sonia-Manmohan arrangement in UPA to continue’.

Contradictory and confusing at surface it looks but scratch a little and the developments start telling for the clarity that is there, waiting to be seen.

Whatever be the analyses, speculations and guessing games (including the wild ones), but the above mentioned developments (reported) summarise how and why of the politics of the Indian National Congress in the coming days.

Let’s see what is being said (and has been said) about the Congress party politics, its leadership and its next prime ministerial candidate in the recent past, especially after the 2009 general elections when Rahul Gandhi was given the major credit for the good show.

But 2009 to 2013 has been a rough patch and a shaky ride for the Congress party, for Manmohan Singh and for Rahul Gandhi.

Corruption, slowing economy, high prices, unpopular decisions and electoral debacles – the continued run of negative developments has dented the gains of the first government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) giving rise to the body of the speculative analysis over the Congress party leadership and its next prime-ministerial candidate.

What do the developments say?

Dear Manmohan is ruled out (is that really so?). It is said he is beginning to prepare for a farewell for a retired life. There was a war cry in the Congress party to declare the next face. Its echoes were very clear because there was no one else in the race but Rahul Gandhi in democratic India’s most undemocratic party, where the majority of the top leadership and almost all other party members don’t see any hope beyond the Gandhi family to remain in the political mainstream.

With poor governance resulting from utter failures on policy issues and a widespread corruption, everyone (many even in the Congress party) had started to write off any chances for the Congress party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.  It had to be checked-in to keep the morale of the party workers high. It is beyond doubt that what Manmohan Singh earned in his first tenure as the prime minister is totally eroded now and the loss looks well beyond redemption.

The Congress party members had just only one hope left in this situation of gloom – the charisma associated with the Gandhi family. After Sonia Gandhi was effectively out of race due to her health concerns, they had their hopes pinned on Priyanka and Rahul.

The efforts culminated in coronation of Rahul Gandhi as the vice president of the Indian National Congress in January 2013 taking effective control of the grand old party of India.

After Rahul Gandhi took over, he spoke of revamping the party among other things. During the course of one such conversation he said he didn’t want to be the prime minister. He said, “Asking me whether you want to be Prime Minister is a wrong question.” He also said, “The Prime Minister’s post is not my priority. I believe in long-term politics.”

It opened a line a line of discussion on, if not Rahul, who could be the next prime-ministerial candidate from the Congress party then. And it naturally followed the corollary – who’ll be Rahul Gandhi’s Manmohan Singh? Even if Rahul doesn’t take the prime-ministerial chair, like Sonia Gandhi, he would be the real power centre of the government. Yes, he needs someone like Manmohan Singh (or Manmohan Singh himself, in case the UPA rides back to the power).

Though, there might be Rahul’s reasons behind his reluctance in taking the front space of the political developments, his silence or delayed response on vital issues has always given wings to the debates that who could be the next prime ministerial candidate from the Congress party if Rahul decides to keep away from it.

As we saw, Manmohan could be an option due to his loyalty to the Gandhi family but before looking further into this, we need to delve into the possible outcomes of the next Lok Sabha elections in the mindset of the Congress party members and the Congress party managers.

Even if the UPA manages to collect the numbers to form the government in spite of poor electoral show of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi would not like to take the troubled throne giving Manmohan yet another chance.

If both think that the UPA is going to score a good victory in the next general elections, Manmohan Singh is effectively ruled out. But hailing the Sonia-Manmohan leadership and the legacy tells otherwise.

If the Congress party managers think that it is not possible to come back to the office in the next general elections, they would prefer to continue projecting the Sonia-Manmohan arrangement as Janardan Dwivedi said (“The relationship between the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi is unique and their camaraderie cannot be replaced easily. We have not seen this sort of duality in any other time and in all probability it is the ideal model for future also.” – April 2, 2013).

It is logical. Rahul has already had his share of big electoral setbacks in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where he campaigned intensively but the Congress party was routed. Party managers have been trying to shield Rahul’s name away from these defeats but a defeat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections would water down everything effectively pushing Rahul’s political career back by many years. That might well be detrimental to the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family in an era of coalition politics and emergence of many other regional political dynasties.

So, if a certain defeat is clear in the mindset of the Congress party strategists, it is better to leave it to Manmohan Singh to bear the brunt of anti-incumbency against his governance, giving Rahul Gandhi opportunity to play safe for the long-term political future.

Let’s come to the other possible names.

Pranab Mukherjee, being the President, is now ruled out. Other names of concern in such debates are P Chidambaram and A K Antony.

But, BUT, they are not as safe an option as Manmohan Singh was. Manmohan Singh was a political nonentity and after completing 9 years as the prime minister remains a political nonentity. That tells us how safe it was for the Gandhi family to go with him. More or less, Manmohan has remained loyal to the family.

In other words, he was never going to be a threat to the political dominance of the Gandhi family in the Congress party.

On the other hand, Pranab was never a safe bet given his grudge on making Manmohan prime minister and his political ambition of getting the prime-ministerial chair. After all he was a career politician with an impressive track record and had all the valid reasons to aspire so. He could have never been the harmless ‘yes man’ the family was looking for. Pranab’s response on Narendra Modi’s observation that Pranab would have been a better prime minister than Manmohan Singh tells this. His “you can have your own assessment” tells all.

And so are P Chidambaram and A K Antony. Given the way they have built their political careers over the years, they cannot be expected to remain the ‘yes men’ once given the taste of power of the country most powerful political position. After all, the Sitaram Kesari experience is just over a decade old.

In short, P Chidambaram or A K Antony can never be Rahul Gandhi’s Manmohan Singh. Also, Manmohan Singh is not going to there in the long run, not beyond the next term, if at all UPA comes in. And there is no one else in the Congress party (a safe option like Manmohan Singh) who can be given the prime-ministerial chair in case the party comes in a position to form the government in future.

And this gives the possibility to think that the thinking thus would be to keep it within the family (the Gandhi family).

And here comes Priyanka Gandhi in the picture.

Even if Rahul Gandhi feels reluctant to take the prime-ministerial responsibility, he will have a family member to lead the political pack at the union government level.

Alternatively, if Rahul opts to become the prime minister, and if he feels he cannot don the twin responsibilities of leading the party and government, he will be able to take a free decision with Priyanka there to take over the responsibility of the Congress party.

And so, it all remains in the family.

This might be the thinking and these could be the possibilities based on the ongoing political developments.

Much of what actually precipitates depends on the real outcome of the next Lok Sabha election but the Rahul-Priyanka political duo is going to take the centrestage in the politics of the Indian National Congress.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

UPA’S FACE FOR THE NEXT LOK SABHA POLLS: MANMOHAN SINGH IN THE RACE? – WHAT DOES IT SAY?

Indian National Congress General Secretary and spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi today rejected the wisdom of Digvijay Singh who, some days ago, had said that the concept of two power centers had failed. While doing so, he pushed some more fodder to the debate over the Congress party’s prime-ministerial candidate in the upcoming general elections.

The question on ‘who will be projected as the prime-ministerial face of the Congress party for the upcoming Lok Sabha election’ has different possibilities and the final choice would depend on how the Congress party members and its strategists are looking at the possible outcome of the next general elections.

If both think that the UPA is going to manage victory in the next general elections, Manmohan Singh can be effectively ruled out.

But if the Congress party managers think that it is not possible to come back to the office in the next general elections (an assumption nearer to the reality), they would prefer to continue hailing the Sonia-Manmohan arrangement and would, in all likelihood, would project Manmohan as the face of the party in the polls, as Janardan Dwivedi said today – “The relationship between the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi is unique and their camaraderie cannot be replaced easily. We have not seen this sort of duality in any other time and in all probability it is the ideal model for future also.” – April 2, 2013

If the Congress party is about the Nehru-Gandhi family and if the party members (barring few) see their future dependent on success of Rahul Gandhi (or say Priyanka Gandhi), taking this line is logical.

Rahul has already had his share of big electoral setbacks in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where he campaigned intensively but the Congress party was routed. Party managers have been trying hard to shield Rahul’s name away from these defeats but a defeat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections would water down everything effectively pushing Rahul’s political career back by many years.

That might well be detrimental to the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family in an era of coalition politics and emergence of many other regional political dynasties.

So, if a certain defeat is clear in the mindset of the Congress party strategists, it is better to leave it to Manmohan Singh, to bear the brunt of anti-incumbency against his government, giving Rahul Gandhi opportunity to play safe for the long-term political future.

And this makes Manmohan to remain in the race. And it, if indeed, is the underlying thinking behind making Manmohan face of the next elections, then his reply, “these are hypothetical questions, we will cross the bridge when it comes”, on a question asking if the Congress party could make him the prime-ministerial candidate for the next elections, sounds more like a statement made out of compulsion than out of self-confidence.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/