The Congress can be led by a non-Gandhi, but till the matter of leadership is resolved, Rahul Gandhi cannot “close his doors” if asked for advice, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra told NDTV today in an exclusive interview. She said proper organisational elections will be held where anyone can contest for the post of the party president, but added a rider, suggesting that many grassroot level workers feel more comfortable with a Gandhi at the helm.
“I don’t think on our part, my mother or my brother, or me, we have any idea… or any entitlement to being leaders of the Congress Party… I certainly don’t. I know that my brother doesn’t. I know my mother doesn’t. We would only be too happy if somebody else rose from the ranks and everybody had faith in them and wanted them to lead,” she said.
Asked if the organisational elections will be proper or pre-determined, Ms Gandhi Vadra said, “The Congress president has repeatedly said that it will be that kind of election”. Asked about the realistic chance of such an election where a non-Gandhi would contest against Rahul Gandhi, were he to stand, she said, “People have stood against my mother. They have in the past. Why not?”
Then came the caveat. “Please don’t discount (the trust the ordinary Congress worker has in us), that there is another reality to this. And the reality on the ground of many, many workers of the Congress is also that there are certain leaders that they believe in. And there are certain leaders that they trust”.
When asked if the certain leaders is a reference to the Gandhis, “I would say that a lot of the workers I speak to and I am talking about block level workers, district level workers. I am not talking about the big and fancies. I am talking about the ordinary Congress worker. A lot of them do have this feeling that they say that, ‘Look, we trust you, we have faith that you will do what is right for our party. We can’t necessarily say that for other people'”.
The Congress suffered its big setback in 2014, when the NDA came to power with a sweeping mandate. The defeat of 2019 – bigger in scale — precipitated a crisis within the party as Rahul Gandhi stepped down as its chief.
The subsequent years, with Sonia Gandhi at the helm as an interim president, led to doubts about the party’s future, which culminated in a call for sweeping organisational change and permanent, accountable leadership by 23 key leaders of the party.
While the party finally agreed to hold internal elections, it is yet to happen. There, meanwhile, have been murmurs about Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as being the unofficial decision-maker of the party despite his emphatic resignation and reluctance to take up the party chief’s post.
“If people in the party want to consult him (Rahul Gandhi) for certain things, there is no reason why he should be open for that consultation,” Ms Gandhi Vadra said today.
“If he were to close his doors and say ‘I am sorry, I am not available for your consultation and I have no opinion,’ that would also not be fair,” she added.
Asked if people are still reaching out him when he does not want it, Ms Gandhi Vadra said: “I am saying he (Rahul Gandhi) is the ex-president of the Congress party. And in that capacity, there are many people who might want to reach out to him, to talk to him about issues. The party itself would and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that”.
Then she added that as the party’s general secretary of Uttar Pradesh, she rings up those who held the post before her.
“Every now and then I ring them up and ask for their opinion… it is a party that functions in that manner. I don’t see any anomaly in it,” she added.