Did you know?

14 March, 1998 Sonia Gandhi took over as Congress President. At that time it was in government in only three states, viz. Mizoram, Nagaland and Orissa.

It had lost all other states and was in opposition in the Centre.

It was actually close to ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’!

The Congress party had split into several factions:

1. All India Indira Congress (Tiwari)

2. Karnataka Congress Party

3. Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress

4. Karnataka Vikas Party

5. Arunachal Congress

6. Tamil Maanila Congress

7. Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress

8. All India Trinamool Congress

9. Tamil Nadu Makkal Congress

10. Himachal Vikas Congress

11. Manipur State Congress Party

12. Goa Rajiv Congress Party

13. Arunachal Congress (Mithi)

14. All India Indira Congress (Secular)

15. Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi

It was after Sonia Gandhi took over as Congress President, that the process of split reversed.

All factions came back under her leadership, except Trinmool Congress and Manipur State Congress(which merged with RJD) and Goa Rajeev Congress (merged with NCP).

Within months of her taking over, Congress started winning elections.

In the same year Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were won, retrieving the party back from oblivion.

It is in this background,the importance of Gandhi family in the Congress Party can be understood.

After independence, Congress Party has had 16 Presidents:

1. Pattabhi Sitaramaiyya

2. Purushottam Das Tondon

3. Jawaharlal Nehru

4. UN Dhebar

5. Indira Gandhi

6. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy

7. K. Kamaraj

8. S. Nijalingappa

9. Jagjivan Ram

10. Shankar Dyal Sharma

11. Devkanta Barua

12. Indira Gandhi

13. Rajiv Gandhi

14. PV Narasimha Rao

15. Sitaram Kesri

16. Sonia Gandhi

These were towering personalities. Of these the following left the party at different points of time:

1. Purshottam Das Tandon

2. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy

3. K. Kamraj

4. S. Nijalingappa

5. Jagjivan Ram

6. Devkanta Barua

They all tried to own up the Congress legacy and give a different policy and philosophy direction, as opposed to that of Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

But all of them failed to impress the people of India!

It certainly can’t be termed as the fault of Nehru and Indira Gandhi that their vision of Congress won and survived in a democracy.

After Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi kept away from the party for eight long years.

Party had an all powerful Prime Minister and Party President in PV Narasimha Rao.

It is wrong to allege that during this period, Sonia Gandhi keep her tight hold on the party from the back stage.

The fact remains that at the highest political levels, this period was long enough to create an alternative leadership, which didn’t happen.

The party sunk to all time low of just three state governments and 15 factions.

Sonia Gandhi retrieved it back. She just didn’t bring it back to power, but also left an indelible imprint on the philosophy and policy outlook of the party.

She ensured a rights-based and a distinct pro-people orientation to the government

It is for such reasons that Sonia Gandhi matters in Congress.

Rahul Gandhi has been elected as Congress President in this background.

It’s now over to his leadership to reinvent the party, take forward the progressive, liberal, secular thought within the party,

as well as, convince the public of the value of such thought.

-Gurdeep Sappal

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