Gandhis - Rahul, Sonia, Priyanka
Gandhis - Rahul, Sonia, Priyanka Image Credit: ANI/PTI

After the disastrous election rout in five state assembly elections in India, the knives are out for the Gandhi family. Kapil Sibal, senior Congress leader, is blunt, saying that the “leadership” — read the Gandhi family — is in “cuckoo land”.

He takes dead aim at the Gandhi family and says that the time for introspection is over and some want a “ghar ki Congress” (family again) while he and leaders like him want a “sab ki Congress” (Congress of all).

Sibal is joined in his anti-Gandhi family crusade by senior leaders Harish Rawat and Sunil Jhakhar who have expressed public anger at the political choices made by the Gandhi family, such as the appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi.

Others are circumspect, not voicing the demand in public but, unanimous that they want the Gandhi family to leave the Congress leadership to a non-family leader.

It really shouldn’t have come to this if the Gandhi family in India — all three of them in politics — had any political antenna left.

The politically tone deaf family went through a familiar ritual of offering their resignations at the Congress Working Committee meet, packed with their loyalists.

Sonia Gandhi remained interim president and Rahul Gandhi continued to be at the helm even as his political career failed to take off yet again with family loyalists asking him to take over as the Congress chief.

A hard scrabble

Priyanka Gandhi who failed in her campaign for the Congress party in UP is another case in point. The party managed to get a voter share of 2 per cent, with 97 per cent of her candidates losing their deposit in UP. Yet Priyanka was praised — yes praised — in the party mouth piece National Herald.

One wonders at the loss of vital political instinct that Sonia Gandhi once had to steer the Congress to power at the centre and refuse the office of Prime Minister and still remain all powerful for the two terms of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Gandhi may have lost her trusted political aide Ahmed Patel to Covid but, surely that can’t explain the total lack of political smarts. Unlike her children, she had a hard scrabble to get a political career and knows the virtue of timing.

The writing is on the wall — it is time for all three Gandhi family members to retire. They can remain as mentors of the Congress but, the face of the leader of the Congress has to change. It cannot be that of the fifth generation dynasts.

If the Gandhis don’t quit gracefully now, they might even meet the unedifying fate of Sitaram Kesri who was hustled out of the office of Congress president to make way for Sonia Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi repeatedly says she got in to politics because she had to look at the family portraits of her assassinated husband, former PM Rajiv Gandhi, and mother in law, another former PM, Indira Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi who displayed a sure footed political instinct has a blind desire to see son Rahul Gandhi succeed.

Modi’s secret weapon

Rahul Gandhi and his scanty curriculum vitae — his defeat in family stronghold Amethi, his frequent mystery trips and his choice of aides have ensured that he is Modi’s secret weapon. The Congress party should stop trying to make Gandhi happen and his mother should ask him to make way for a leader with political hunger.

Gandhi may be a nice guy in person but, the Indian electorate has rejected him in two general elections and numerous state elections. Most Indians can’t identify with Rahul Gandhi who still remains a bit of an enigma. The best thing he can do as a priviledeged Indian is travel, which seems to be the one thing he is passionate about.

As far as Priyanka Gandhi is concerned, the UP election should have been a lesson to her and her brand of impetuous helicopter politics. If she is not prepared to work hard, why will the voters trust her?

Congress palace courtiers often say that only the Gandhi family has it in them to take on Modi. Whoever replaces the Gandhi family as president will have no choice but to take on Modi. It is a feature of the job, not a glitch.

The best thing the Gandhi family can do for India is to announce a mass retirement.