She is accredited with uniting the Grand Old Party (GOP) of Congress and bringing it back to power in 2004. She traveled extensively, was meeting people all the time, and built a powerful cadre. But, since 2004, after she could not become Prime Minister (PM) she started the dual power structure. Prime Minister became a person deferring to the party for all important policies and even in day-to-day appointments and postings, 10 Janpath, the home of Sonia, became important.
This dual power structure led to a strong party but weak governance as the Head of the executive, PM Manmohan Singh wielded less power. Such a contradictory position ultimately led to a mute PM and the public ultimately started disliking him and this dual power system. This was the first mistake of Sonia that she did not rectify this faulty system and continued with a weak PM and weak governance and Ministers who always reported to 10 Janpath rather than to PM.
Secondly, she had a coterie of advisers who were not mass leaders – Ahmed Patel, A K Antony, Ambica Soni, and P Chidambaram, who was completely cut off from the ground and were too arrogant, self-centered, commanded no respect from party workers, were giving opinions on every matter which was remotely connected to them. They had, in fact, become Super PMs. Their word was final for Sonia Gandhi and then her wishes were communicated to weak PM Manmohan Singh who followed it in letter and spirit and had no say to alter it.
Although he traveled extensively and addressed over 500 election meetings and became Congress Vice President and then President he still carries a nonserious image basically due to his slippery character.
Thirdly Sonia started selecting weak leaders as Chief Ministers and ultimately MLAs had no say – started with Prithviraj Chauhan in Maharashtra, experiments continued in Uttar Pradesh and no strong leader was projected or developed. Bihar was surrendered to Lalu Prasad Yadav who later backstabbed. Delhi continued with Sheila Dixit who had lost popularity due to CWG scam, divided Andhra Pradesh (key advisor on this venture was none other Chidambaram) and kicked out Jagan Reddy at the behest of this coterie and now both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have gone from Congress. There is no clarity in Madhya Pradesh and the GOP was swinging between Jyotiraditya, Digvijaya and Kamalnath.
Fourthly she did not replace the old team in UPA 2 which had resulted in no Congress leader who is available today. If younger Congress MPs were made Cabinet Ministers then today India would have at least 50 ex-Cabinet Ministers and leaders who would have taken forward the party. She failed on this count miserably.
And finally, she was not clear on son Rahul Gandhi’s role – this cost the Congress the maximum.
To quote American journalist and writer H.L.Mencken, “Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas”.
As a mother she wanted her son to take over the party and attain Prime Ministership and in both aspects, she failed to deliver. She should have given Rahul Gandhi experience in Government by making him a minister in the UPA period and ultimately to PM’s post when Manmohan Singh was unwell. This would have had far-reaching consequences. She failed miserably and the party is finished today. The tag of Pappu, Buddhu, inexperienced, immature, would have been removed from Rahul Gandhi.
This is open for people to debate that was this the work of Coterie which did not let Rahul Gandhi take over or it was a weak mother who could not control her son who’s image was projected as non-serious, uninterested, and an escapist. She is responsible for this mess in the career of her slippery son.
The less is said about him the better. Although he traveled extensively and addressed over 500 election meetings and became Congress Vice President and then President he still carries a nonserious image basically due to his slippery character. He routinely commits blunders and is equally responsible for the demise of Congress.
Firstly he has no connect till date with the party workers and they don’t feel motivated by him. He does not empathise or sympathise with Congress workers at any level. The touch of creating personal feelings with party cadre is completely lacking. This has damaged the party to a great extent.
Secondly, he was surrounded during UPA 1 and UPA 2 with people of below-average mental level. They could not guide him at all. They, in turn, say he never wanted any advice and they were only like court jesters!! The coterie surrounding Rahul made him completely inaccessible. The coterie was foreign-educated novices who experimented with congress working and ticket selections and alliances and party posts. Thus completely destroyed congress but they were untouchable as Rahul depended on them. Kanishka Singh was their leader and it consisted of Kaushal Vidyarthi, Alankar Tandon, etc. They behaved like most knowledgeable and demigods for poor party workers and leaders. They regularly misbehaved with them and rather keeping senior party leaders in good humour even if Rahul gave them no time, they were more arrogant and discourteous than Rahul Gandhi. They made Rahul Gandhi very unpopular among senior party leaders and party workers.
Iconic American businessman and once chairman of IBM Thomas J. Watson summarised Rahul Gandhi’s foremost problem, “Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”
Thirdly, no one knows everything. Only if he had read Ernest Hemingway, he would have known the value of listening, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen,” Hemingway has famously said.
And as PG Wodehouse, English satirist wrote, “…she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.”
Everyone tries to learn from known intelligent and knowledgeable people about different fields be it Economics, Governance, Law, Human Resources, or Foreign Affairs but Rahul showed no inclination to learn from anyone. This nonlearning made him a burden on congress and he could in return offer no good advice on day-to-day issues. He was always out of focus. He offered no consistency on any issue or policy. He never saw anything reach a final conclusion. Today he cannot claim anything that he has done for the country. His advisors and friends also failed miserably to counsel him.
Fourthly, he had a complete disconnect with senior party leaders, and neither could they groom him nor he wanted to learn anything from them. He looked at them with contempt. Stalwarts like Pranab Mukherjee were ignored – slow-moving politicians like Mohan Prakash, Madhusudan Mistry, who inspired none were given prominence. Rahul could not control the corruption of Chidambaram or others. Congress became a party embroiled in fights among themselves But Rahul chose to ignore it – Chidambaram was fighting with Pranab, Anand Sharma was fighting with Vir Bhadra Singh, Ajay Maken was fighting with Sheila Dikshit, Pulok Chatterjee was fighting with TKA Nair in PMO – these fights led to engineering Public Interest Litigations, newspaper leaks, and adverse public opinion which finally led to the demise of Congress in May 2014 Lok Sabha election.
The fifth point is that Rahul miserably failed to constitute a young team of governance. He didn’t make young Cabinet Ministers, had no one in the bureaucracy, and miserably failed to make young leaders as State presidents of the party. These people would by now have changed Congress but old spent forces continued in UPA 2 and the public got fed up and came to believe that Gandhis are a part of the same gang and so discarded them.
Sixth is that Rahul has no friends. A person with no friends never gets to know informally what is going on. Only friends give frank and unbiased inputs. Rahul gets no true inputs. So he is always at a loss. This attitude of his has cost Congress dearly.
Finally comes the newest General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi who is much more receptive than both mother and brother, is more pleasant to interact, and gels with Congress workers more and they have better connect with her. And as PG Wodehouse, English satirist wrote, “…she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.” She gave Congress; husband Robert Vadra a liability which Congress is not able to digest. Marriage was a personal subject but still, rulers enter into alliances and not marriages. If you have to rule them you have to sacrifice personal feelings.
She damaged Congress by letting her husband loose. Robert should have been kept at home without getting into shady land deals. She should have told him clearly that there is no space for him to enter into a business of any sort but she failed miserably and Sonia Gandhi also it seems to have had no control. Robert ran amok. He created an image for himself which is hated by every common man. He ruined Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi election by standing on a truck and asking votes for him. Such weakness on the part of the Gandhis for Robert has caused irreparable damage for the GOP and there seems to be no sign of remorse or feeling of guilt in Robert and others that they have killed the ambitions of lack of youth and old congress loyalists.
Secondly, Priyanka seems to be in a tearing hurry to take over everything in Congress, undermining the position of Rahul. The group in Congress which hates Rahul Gandhi is always seen around her. This created a bad message which has gone everywhere and is damaging Congress and creating confusion in the party.
Thirdly Priyanka Gandhi had a dream to be in politics since childhood but she failed to receive world-class education and exposure. The reason may be father Rajiv Gandhi’s death but politics and power demand a tough mental status which she lacks. Unlike Rahul, she has friends but she is also not surrounded by a team of sharp people from every walk of life. People discarded by Rahul and the public are surrounding her which is furthering the damage to the party. She has failed miserably to awaken the masses in UP and restructure Congress in the State. All party posts are lying vacant in Uttar Pradesh and she is busy in Delhi thereby losing touch from the ground. Rather than staying and touring continuously for months in UP, she spends time in Khan Market and in parties.
Fourthly She is completely absent from the intellectual arena and talks. She is never seen as a serious politician and a knowledgeable person by the upper-middle class and intelligentsia. She has failed to carry forward the legacy of Nehru and his so-called intellect and dynamism perception. No congress district president can dare to ring them and give any suggestions, they can’t even take the liberty of sharing their problems, no Congress leader can hope to get a surprise call for lunch from Gandhis!! This is how they behave and have already caused serious damage and continue to inflict more damage every day.
Writer Jay Kristoff has said it before, “Beauty you’re born with, but brains you earn.”