Congress sending confused signals

Confusion has lately reigned on the question of the relationship between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. And this has worked to the disadvantage of the Congress. Presenting the pointedly official party view of the dyarchy, chief Congress spokesman Janardan Dwivedi, described the mutual official ties between the PM and the Congress president as “unique”, and said “perhaps this should be the ideal model for the future also”.

An earlier recent observation by senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, widely seen as being close to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, has no doubt prompted Mr Dwivedi’s articulation, which appears in the nature of a riposte to Mr Singh. Stung by a television news story (that also found its way into newspapers) suggesting Mr Gandhi was not interested in becoming PM even if the Congress won the next election,
Mr Singh sought to dispel the notion. In that context he said the Sonia-Manmohan model, which some see as two competing centres of power within the same establishment, had not worked well. To the outside world, this appeared to suggest that, contrary to speculation,
Mr Gandhi would not looking for his own Manmohan Singh when the time came.
In his eagerness to scotch any sense that the Sonia-Manmohan equation might be fraught, or that it might have produced unintended negative results in the running of the UPA government and political establishment (as some believe),
Mr Dwivedi’s comments have ended up giving it a halo, especially since he posits it as an “ideal model” for the future as well. Mr Dwivedi and Mr Singh may be perfectly happy chasing each other around the mulberry tree, but observers are likely to be not just amused, but also thoroughly confused. Are we to be persuaded by Mr Dwivedi and think that Mr Gandhi would throw away the crown of thorns if circumstances were propitious?
The truth is that the “unique” (Mr Dwivedi is quite right to call it that) Sonia-Manmohan situation is a product of a specific political context. In forging this arrangement, and giving it her sanction, Mrs Gandhi signalled that in a spirit of renunciation she was excluding herself from becoming the leader of the government, possibly for ever. But should the restraining hand inhibit her son? It is an interesting question, though it’s clear it has been forced by the Congress’ statement that appears clumsy.
The relationship between a Congress Prime Minister and the Congress president — as was clear in Jawaharlal Nehru’s day — was not always cordial. For much of her time in office, Indira Gandhi was also Congress president. Thus the issue was not germane. In contrast, the Sonia-Manmohan equation has worked quite well on the whole.

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