The release of Congress’ first list of 15 candidates, 11 of UP and 4 from Gujarat, ends the speculation on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s retirement from active politics due to health reasons. The Congress Central Election Committee on Thursday announced that Sonia Gandhi will contest the Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Sonia Gandhi is the current MP from Rae Bareli and she is serving her third term from the constituency. Prior to that, she had been contesting from Amethi which she left in favour of her son, Rahul Gandhi. Both Rae Bareli and Amethi have been traditional Congress bastions. Interestingly, these are the only 2 seats out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP which are in Congress’ hold.
The announcement that Sonia Gandhi would be contesting election from Rae Bareli comes as a surprise as she had expressed her desire to take retirement from active politics. She had toyed with the idea of retiring from politics in 2016 when she turned 70. The party, however, kept pressuring, dithering and delaying till Rahul Gandhi was crowned party president when the Gujarat assembly polls were underway. Following this, in the winter of 2017, when Rahul Gandhi had officially been elected as the party president, Sonia Gandhi stated as Parliament met to begin its winter session, “My role now is to retire”.
This announcement also effectively puts an end to the speculation of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party’s newly appointed general secretary in-charge (East UP), getting fielded from the traditional family Constituency, Rae Bareli. She is in fact, nowhere to be mentioned.
In doing so, the former Congress president has over-ruled herself. For the past one year, Sonia had almost stopped meeting Congress leaders, telling them to call on Rahul. However, political compulsions or the doctrine of necessity due to the post-Pulwama and surgical strikes scenario has forced her to junk her own desire to set an example of voluntary retirement from public life.
Sonia has the ability to overrule both Priyanka and Rahul, reach out to every non-NDA constituent and act swiftly. While Rahul Gandhi’s performance as a politician has been mediocre and like every entitled member of a monarchy, he has just been handed over the Congress presidency, Sonia Gandhi has come a long way from being the “foreign bahu” to the woman who was essentially the Prime Minister without the official tag. She understands that giving Rahul Gandhi the complete reigns of the party would ruin any chances Congress may have of getting even a few seats in UP or in any other state for that matter. Besides, if Rahul or Priyanka manage to lose the traditional family constituencies, the damage would be irreversible. Not only will the Congress become the laughing stock of the country but will be out of UP politics for good.
Apart from saving the Congress bastions in UP, Sonia Gandhi has always been a step forward in bailing out her son, Rahul Gandhi. She stepped in to choose the chief minister after the Karnataka state election. She took the decision to make HD Kumaraswamy the CM of Karnataka which Rahul seemed to oppose but later accepted the decision.
The shrewd woman, with years of experience, was quick to learn that in the age of coalition politics, alliances were the way forward. Being the entitled self that he is, Rahul Gandhi refused to ally with Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, who had won 67 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats in a three-cornered fight, even after he had begged for the alliance. Thereafter, it is believed that opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar advised Rahul Gandhi to ally with Kejriwal, a suggestion that Rahul reluctantly accepted. But within hours of Rahul having given his party the go-ahead for an alliance, Kejriwal announced candidates for 6 of the 7 Lok Sabha constituencies of Delhi. This must have been extremely humiliating for the Congress, which repaid the favour by asking AAP to come to the table and sending it back home empty-handed. Realising that her son has completely botched up the only chance of power they had in Delhi, Sonia Gandhi has perceived that announcing voluntary retirement from such a situation and giving the party control to Rahul Gandhi would be a moronic move.
For the voters, this just goes on to prove how unreliable and fickle Sonia Gandhi herself believes her son to be. Sonia Gandhi’s inclusion in the list indicates the lack of party’s trust in Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. For a lad whose own mother cannot trust his abilities, he has little chance of proving himself to the entire country. This entire episode has reiterated the fact that irrespective of whether Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister, or Rahul Gandhi is, Sonia Gandhi, keeping in mind her apparent ineligibility will be the one sitting on the throne.
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