Sonia Gandhi has been chosen for fourth consecutive term as Congress chief. Her love for Omar has made her averse to any discussion on Kashmir unrest, while senior Congress leaders elbow out her son from the race for the next PM. Iftikhar Gilani reports
Sonia Gandhi, 63, has been chosen president of the Congress for the fourth consecutive term making her the longest serving chief of the largest political party in the democratic world. Only China’s Communist Party surpasses the Indian National Congress in terms of reach, cadre base and memberships.
Ms Gandhi may be an unchallenged queen, but despite holding real power, she seems bereft of ideas to stem the current unrest in Kashmir. Inner circles in 10-Janpath confide that she ‘cuts short’ any discussion on Kashmir and probably does not want to listen to complaints against her prot?g? Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
At the recent CWC meeting, when Home Minister P Chidambaram was making a point asking his party colleagues to look beyond Omar Abdullah, the Congress president seemed getting restless. Home Minister unequivocally stated that party may have to review love for Omar as no amount of force, he would sent to Kashmir to quell disturbances, would prove effective in absence of an effective administration. Due to her indifference, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has also returned to shell, refusing to spell out his Kashmir plans. As it now trickles down, soon after election results Dr. Singh had feebly advocated for a tie-up with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was also supported by the party general secretary in charge Jammu and Kashmir Prithviraj Chouhan. Little did they, know that Sachin Pilot had sewed up a deal between 10-Janpath and Abdullahs to anoint Omar as head of next government.
Circles close to Chief Minister, recently boasted that he had an unmatched access in the corridors of power in Delhi. The kind of access, no chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir has enjoyed in the past. Therefore, they believe he was tailor made to prove a vehicle to settle the issue of Kashmir forever. They further claim that Congress president has promised every support towards this endeavour to the extent of sacrificing her own party in the State.
“The problem (Kashmir issue) was created by Sheikh Abdullah (grandfather of Chief Minister), he is now destined as last Abdullah in power in Srinagar to conclude this problem for ever,” claim the chief minister’s acolytes.
Agreeing that Omar had an unflinched access in the corridors of power in Delhi, Congress circles say, he has received an unmatched support from the Congress high command and the government which even Congress chief ministers have never enjoyed. Past chief ministers or prime ministers from Khawja Shamsuddin to Dr. Farooq Abdullah have been shown door for even minor felonies.
On the advice of B N Mulick, then IB chief, then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru packed Bakhshi’s out of Kashmir politics following holy relic agitation. Now with more than 60 youth losing their lives, some here believe it is high time to pack Abdullah’s out of Kashmir and search for some G. M. Sadiq, to provide way for Hurriyat to get engaged in a serious dialogue. Sadiq had provided a way for the release of Sheikh Mohamamd Abdulah and his sojourn to Pakistan.
Back to Congress politics here, analysts here believe Congress president Sonia Gandhi is still not able to stem a fierce power struggle that has broken out in the party. Also on crucial matters like the current unrest in Kashmir, she is keeping to herself, refusing to get into any discussion or giving any direction to the party in the wake of anger brewing against her prot?g? chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Ms. Gandhi’s main worry, however, 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 two time chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, and the lawyer-turned Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram who turns 65 on September 15.