New Delhi: As the Congress's central election authority again met on Tuesday to deliberate upon the schedule for elections to the party president's post, everybody was trying to gauge what's on the mind of the Gandhis, considered the first family of the Grand Old Party.
The group of 23 leaders (G23) that wrote the infamous letter demanding reforms in the party is also keeping a close watch on the developments. Sources say many senior Congress senior leaders are apprehensive that Rahul Gandhi may push the name of K.C. Venugopal for the top post. Venugopal is perceived to be close to Rahul Gandhi and holds the post of General Secretary Organisation at present.
Senior leaders say any attempt to push a proxy candidate will not be appreciated. In case it is done, the disgruntled group may opt for elections and challenge such a move. However, sources within the group say there will be no challenge in case Rahul Gandhi himself decides to contests elections for the top post. But in the eventuality that one or more proxy candidates are propped up, sources within the G23 say there will be a contest and other candidates could throw their hat in the ring.
It is worth recalling that when Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post of president after the party was decimated in the General elections, he said he wanted somebody outside the Gandhi family to take on the responsibility. But eventually Sonia Gandhi took charge as interim president in August 2019.
With the unfortunate demise of Ahmed Patel, it would be tough for the party to arrive at a consensus on the name of a non-Gandhi party president and any misadventure may prove counterproductive as some of the regional satraps may part ways with the party as was seen recently in Madhya Pradesh.
Sources said the only name which may be acceptable to everybody other than the Gandhis is that of Ashok Gehlot. The Rajasthan CM has cordial working relations with the Gandhis and will also be acceptable to the old guard as he is seasoned senior and an OBC, which can work to the party's advantage while taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The other veteran leaders in the party are Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh but their candidature may meet with resistance within the party.
The disgruntled leaders insist Rahul Gandhi and his team should not interfere in party functioning but if Rahul becomes president then every decision should be deliberated in the CWC before being finalised. Even the G23 in their letter, had demanded that there party elections be held from the block to CWC level.
The internal rift in the Congress extends to the Rajya Sabha elections in which seniors such as Mukul Wasnik and Ghulam Nabi Azad (whose term is expiring early next year) were ignored even as Rajiv Satav and K.C. Venugopal sent to the Upper House.
While Satav is Gujarat in-charge, he could not stop the exodus of MLAs which cost one Rajya Sabha seat to the party. In the same manner, Jyotiraditya Scindia rebelled when Deepak Babaria, perceived to be close to Rahul Gandhi, could not apprehend the gravity of the situation and the Congress lost power in Madhya Pradesh, a state that they had won after 15 years.