Thursday, September 2, 2010


2 Sept 2010


From R Rajagopalan/Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: The 63-year old Sonia Gandhi turns out to be an unchallenged queen with all nominations on Thursday only for her to be the Congress President for the fourth term, but she is still not able to stem a fierce power struggle that has broken out in the party.

Her worry is that the developments will dim prospects of her 40-year old son and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi taking the reins of the Government after Dr Manmohan Singh.

The key players engaged in one-upmanship to put self in that position are 63-year old General Secretary Digvijay Singh, a 2-time chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, and the lawyer-turned Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram who turns 65 on September 15.

The party sources say Sonia Gandhi knows machinations of these two in quietly side-lining Rahul but she is not able to do much, particularly when he dragged feet in joining the government and remained confined to the task of building up the new young team of the party.

The 74-year old Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who talked of retiring from politics after the last term after election last year, is also harbouring hope to be the natural choice as the PM as seen from his attempts to strike a rapport with leaders of all parties as a trouble-shooter of the Congress.

The most aggressive, however, is Digvijay Singh who knows from his close association with Rahul Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh for over six years that he does not have mettle to head the government or the party as he has turned out to be a "bachcha" capable of nothing more than leading the "baba log" (young) MPs.

Knowing well that Chidambaram has a better chance on account of being already in the government, Digvijay Singh loses no opportunity to hit him out on the policy matters -- be it the anti-Maoist policy or his recent controversial "saffron terrorism" remark. It is another matter that Digvijay Singh was the first to coin the term after arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and some other Hindu activists for the 2008 Malegaon blasts that killed six and left 101 wounded.

The other day, Digvijay Singh also led a delegation to the Prime Minister to urge him to scuttle a legislation Chidambaram was pushing to put under check the firearms owned by citizens. Among those he mobilised to join the delegation was BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh.

Chidambaram, however, is a shrewd politician who does not believe in picking up public fight. Instead, he is trying to be more accessible to all in the ruling UPA coalition as also to all those in the opposition parties who matter. He has been so far able to thwart all attacks of Diggi Raja (as Digvijay Singh is called) because of the fullest support of Dr Manmohan Singh that he enjoys.

While he tried to show that he is pursuing only the policies personally approved by the Prime Minister, Digvijay Singh tries to show as if he crosses swords with him at the hints from 10 Janpath. He gets bolstered from the fact that many of the stands he took are adopted by the party, giving an impression to those in Congress that he opens mouth only at the instance of Sonia Gandhi.

Diggi Raja also specialises in throwing names whenever he is caught on the wrong foot. The latest was engagement of an advertising agency blacklisted by Treasurer Motilal Vora, also a former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, for putting the party's hoardings in the poll-bound Bihar. When the party's state leaders protested at the hoardings sending out wrong message, Digvijay Singh silenced them by claiming Rahul Gandhi cleared the slogan.

Since after shifting base from Bhopal on losing power in Madhya Pradesh to the BJP a decade ago, Digvijay Singh has built up equations with those who matter in the Congress as also with some of the top industrialists in the country to raise hefty funds for the party.

Among those with whom he works in tandem is another General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi, who is also chairman of the party's media department. Both try to support and justify each other's statements. Dwivedi was eyeing for the Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister's post in the UPA-II government and he is since pissed off from the post going to Kapil Sibal. No surprise he backed Congress MP Keshav Rao launching a personal attack on Sibal in the course of debate on a Bill on the last day of Parliament, and Digvijay Singh quickly jumping in his support to back the MP who caused a lot of embarrassment to the government in putting on hold passage of the legislation.


1 comment:

Vik said...

interesting read...both of them are a million times better than rahul gandhi...surely india deserves better than him...but still skeptical given the levels to which sycophancy in the congress towards the family goes