Home Top News Sonia Gandhi Shifts To Rajya Sabha. End Of Era, Big Change For Congress

Sonia Gandhi Shifts To Rajya Sabha. End Of Era, Big Change For Congress

Sonia Gandhi Shifts To Rajya Sabha. End Of Era, Big Change For Congress


Sonia Gandhi was Congress President from 1998 to 2017 and from 2019 to 2022 (File).

New Delhi:

Congress matriarch Sonia Gandhi will stand down from the Lok Sabha this year – 25 years after her first term – leaving behind an impeccable electoral record that is all the more remarkable given her non-Indian origin and the circumstances of her entry to the country’s volatile political landscape.

Ms Gandhi, 77, will not, however, withdraw from public life just yet; this is not a retirement but a repositioning, of sorts. She will move to the Rajya Sabha.

She filed her nomination papers from Jaipur in Rajasthan today and will take over – the Congress has the numbers to guarantee her election – the seat now held by former Prime Minister and party stalwart Manmohan Singh, who may retire after a celebrated five-decade career.

Sonia Gandhi contested her first election from the party stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and from Karnataka’s Bellary. She won both. That was in 1999, eight years after her husband and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, and she was persuaded to help rescue the party.

In 2004 she shifted to the Congress’ second UP stronghold – Raebareli.

The Congress leader has been ever-present since 1999, serving as a steadying and guiding force for her party, particularly through the political and parliamentary turbulence of the past decade.

In parliament and outside she often let her colleagues take centre-stage, but the normally soft-spoken Ms Gandhi was capable of sharp attacks, including in September and December last year, when she took the BJP head-on over the Women’s Reservation Bill, and the mass suspension of opposition MPs,

READ | On Women’s Bill, Sonia Gandhi, Kanimozhi Lead Charge

In 2018 she ripped into the government, declaring, “… PM is very good at lectures… but lectures cannot fill stomachs. You need dal chawal. Lectures don’t heal the sick… you need health centres.”

And in 2015 too she threw down against Mr Modi, this time arguing against his “many fraudulent promises about transparency” in a debate over key posts, like Chief Information Commissioner.

Ms Gandhi’s position as, perhaps, the foremost opposition politician, also meant she was frequently the target of attacks, particularly given her Italian heritage, with many, including now-ally Sharad Pawar, questioning her political credentials. That line of attack was often employed by the BJP too.

She was, though, rarely fazed, even when she was accused of “lying” by a union minister in 2018.

The Raebareli Years

Ms Gandhi has held Raebareli since 2004, never polling below 55 per cent. She won the seat even in 2014 and 2019, when the Congress was routed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, and held it even when Rahul Gandhi lost Amethi. And leaves (very) big shoes to fill for whomever the Congress fields from here in the April/May election.

Who that will be is unclear but there is buzz one Gandhi will be replaced by another, and that it will not be Rahul. There is talk Priyanka Gandhi Vadra – whose resemblance to grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has been noted – is being readied for her long-awaited electoral debut.

Indeed, Mr Singh’s anticipated exit and Ms Gandhi’s predicted transfer are only two-thirds of this story, which, if completed to script, will signal a generational change in the Congress’ top leadership.

Priyanka Gandhi’s Entrance?

There has always been a ‘will she, won’t she’ air about Ms Gandhi Vadra’s political career. And that has gathered pace over the past months, particularly since her mother stepped into the Rajya Sabha.

Five years ago – before the 2019 election – Ms Gandhi Vadra, said she was ready to make her electoral debut at any time, and set tongues wagging after quipping “why not” when asked if she would contest from UP’s Varanasi, a contest that could pitch her into a head-to-head with Mr Modi.

READ | “Why Not Varanasi,” Quips Priyanka Gandhi On Poll Fight Request

That will be a step too far (for anyone) on their electoral debut. An easier one could be the chance to contest from a Congress stronghold, with the weight of sentiment added to the voting draw.

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