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AICC meet affirms Sonia’s supremacy
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

Congress supporters from South stand in a queue to meet party President Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi
Congress supporters from South stand in a queue to meet party President Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi on Sunday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, August 22
Saturday’s day-long AICC conclave, the first after the Congress formed the government at the Centre after eight years, merely reaffirmed what has been known all along : Congress president Sonia Gandhi is ‘numero uno’ and that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s hold on the party remains unshaken. And if Congressmen have their way, the grand old party will always be led by a Gandhi. This was evident from their ecstatic response to Rahul Gandhi, the fifth generation member of the Congress party’s first family.

The tone and tenor of the speeches at the AICC meet, dedicated to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on his 60th birth anniversary, made it amply clear that there is no room for two power centres as far as the party is concerned. The Congress may be faced with an unusual situation with two different persons holding the posts of party chief and Prime Minister, but as far as partymen are concerned, Sonia Gandhi’s leadership is absolute and unchallenged.

There may be two persons but there is only one power centre and that is the Congress president. There is no doubt about it, remarked a senior AICC functionary. This fact is acknowledged by all Congressmen, including the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who admitted in his speech yesterday that the Lok Sabha mandate was for Ms Gandhi and that he was deeply honoured by the faith she had reposed in him by entrusting him with this responsibility.

If Congressmen accept this situation without any question, it is as much to do with their innate obsequious nature as it is with their instinct for self-preservation.

History has shown that given the mass-based nature of the party, it can held together by only one powerful leader. Each time there have been doubts about the exact location of this power centre, the party has split.

Although the AICC meet was meant to celebrate the party’s victory in the recent Lok Sabha poll and showcase the Nehru-Gandhi legacy, it also served as an opportunity to clear the air about the respective roles of the Prime Minister and the Congress President. This was reflected in their starkly contrasting speeches. While Ms Gandhi’s combative and highly inspiring presidential address, as described by a party leader, was an outright political statement, Dr Manmohan Singh’s speech gave an elaborate account of the UPA government’s official programmes, policies and priorities.

The message was loud and clear: Ms Sonia Gandhi is the political boss and Dr Manmohan Singh the administrative chief.

Yesterday’s AICC meet also saw Ms Sonia Gandhi emerging as a confident and mature leader. In what was being dubbed as a coming of age speech, the Congress President touched the right note as she provided direction to the cadres about the tasks she expects them to take up and explained the Congress party’s ideological moorings as opposed to those of the BJP-RSS combine which, according to party leaders, is the most defining issue that sets the two apart.

The Congress, she explained, is secular, plural and inclusive while the BJP-RSS nationalism is divisive and fundamentalist. Her searing attack on the Sangh Parivar was also reflected in the political resolution adopted yesterday with the party mincing no words in describing the RSS as anti-democratic, illiberal and hypocritical. The deliberate indictment of the Sangh Parivar was essentially driven by the need to draw a distinction between the two major political parties, particularly after the BJP came to power and positioned itself as an alternative to the Congress.
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