M A I N   N E W S

Sonia set for 4th term
Files nomination papers for post of Congress president with PM leading party leaders in proposing her name
Anita Katyal & Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 2
Her re-election a mere formality, Sonia Gandhi is all set to become the longest serving president of the Congress party. She will don the mantle of party chief for the fourth successive term and hold office for an uninterrupted 15 years.

The process of her re-election was set in motion today when Sonia Gandhi filed her nomination papers for the post with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leading party leaders in proposing her name.

With Sonia Gandhi having established herself as the party’s undisputed leader, there was a mad scramble outside her residence at 10 Janpath as party loyalists, which included all senior party leaders, lined up to propose her name for the post.

The Prime Minister was followed by senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee and Moti Lal Vora while chief ministers of the Congress-ruled states and several Union ministers were among those who had come to get her assent on the nomination papers.

Besides Sheila Dikshit of Delhi, Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan and Bhupinder Singh Hooda of Haryana, chief ministers of Maharashtra and Manipur were spotted along with their respective entourages. Former Union minister Arjun Singh, who has been marginalised by the party, also turned up to append his signatures on the nomination papers. Congress general secretary and Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi took a special break from his three-day trip to his constituency Amethi to take part in the election process.

Sonia’s unopposed re-election as Congress president is indeed a foregone conclusion. There is no question of anybody else challenging her leadership as sycophantic Congressmen are convinced that it is only the pan-Indian acceptance of the Nehru-Gandhi family which can keep the party united. Except for 2000 when she faced a contest from senior UP Congress leader Jitendra Prasad, who had the temerity to take her on, Sonia Gandhi was elected unopposed subsequently in 1998 and 2005.

Derided initially for her inexperience and foreign origins, Sonia Gandhi has clearly come a long way since she accepted the challenge and took charge of the Congress in 1998. The grand old party was then in shambles but she went about rebuilding the organisation and eventually led it to power in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections which was followed by another victory last year. Sonia Gandhi established her political acumen when she personally reached out to forge a coalition of secular forces and this included her bitter critics like Sharad Pawar, Chandrashekhar and V.P.Singh.

Sonia Gandhi’s ratings shot up when she declined the Prime Minister’s post and instead nominated Manmohan Singh for this job. She has since been concentrating on party affairs - she remains the party’s chief campaigner - and ensures that the UPA government does not stray from the party’s “aam admi” agenda. Party insiders maintain though she is far more assured today , she exercises extreme caution while taking decisions and speaking in public in case she is faulted for her lack of understanding of India’s cultural and political ethos.

Having blunted the opposition’s “foreign origins” campaign against her, the BJP today remarked sarcastically that Sonia Gandhi should offer the party president’s post to somebody outside the Gandhi family just as she had “sacrificed” the post of Prime Minister. Congress leaders furiously rebutted this comment, asking the BJP to mind its own business. “ It is the decision of Congress party workers. BJP cannot dictate to us what we should do,” said Oscar Fernandes, chairman of Central Election Authority.

AICC media incharge Janardan Dwivedi said, “Congress is a democratic party.... that is why we are discussing party matters here. We don’t talk about constitution of other parties. Whether we want to elect her for four or 40 terms, it is our prerogative”.





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