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  Opinion   Columnists  13 Apr 2024  Anita Katyal | Madhav says no vacancy at top; Vadra’s curious pitch for Amethi

Anita Katyal | Madhav says no vacancy at top; Vadra’s curious pitch for Amethi

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.
Published : Apr 14, 2024, 12:06 am IST
Updated : Apr 14, 2024, 12:06 am IST

ntrigue and Speculation Surrounding Potential Congress Candidates and Leadership Dynamics

Robert Vadra. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)
 Robert Vadra. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)

Though he usually keeps a low profile, businessman Robert Vadra, husband of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, has been unusually vocal these days. He has given a spate of interviews pitching himself as the perfect candidate for the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, once a Gandhi stronghold but now lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Robert Vadra maintains that the current MP Smriti Irani has failed to live up to expectations and that the people of Amethi want him to represent them in Parliament. Mr Vadra’s statements have predictably confused and intrigued the party. In fact, a few Congress leaders went into a huddle the day Mr Vadra gave his first interview to decode what he meant and to figure out their response to it. One senior spokesperson was ready to give a media bite on this issue but was asked to step back just as he was about to go on air. With the Congress top brass failing to clarify matters, party leaders are left wondering if Mr Vadra has been asked by the Gandhi family to project himself through his public pronouncements, or is he doing so on his own accord? This will remain a subject of animated discussion and speculation in the Congress till the party announces its candidates for the Amethi and Rae Bareli seats.

Ram Madhav, India Foundation president and member of the RSS national executive, was left searching for an appropriate answer when asked at the launch of senior journalist Priya Sahgal’s book, The Contenders. Who Will Lead India Tomorrow, who among the current crop of young leaders have the potential to occupy the country’s top post. Tying himself in knots, Mr Madhav refused to pick any names, insisting it was an irrelevant discussion since there is no vacancy at the top and unlikely to be one for many years to come. Mr Madhav’s evasive answers and the mandatory high praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew a sharp response from the two other panellists, Abhishek Singhvi of the Congress and former diplomat Pavan Varma, who came down on him like a ton of bricks on issues ranging from the Modi government’s misuse of investigative agencies against Opposition leaders and the promotion of a personality cult in the Bharatiya Janata Party. Given Mr Modi’s dominating persona, Mr Varma remarked no one understands more than Mr Madhav the consequences of getting into a discussion on future leaders. Mr Varma was obviously referring to Mr Madhav’s abrupt fall from grace four years ago when he was removed as BJP national general secretary and sent back to the RSS.

Former foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla may have lost out on a Lok Sabha ticket from Darjeeling but it appears he is still hoping that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pick him up for a plum assignment or even a Rajya Sabha seat when he returns to power. This is the current buzz in the Indian diplomatic community which is aghast at how a seasoned and respected diplomat who had such a stellar career is bending over backwards to please the ruling dispensation. For instance, Mr Shringla recently posted on X about how he was “honoured to call on the external affairs minister” and “receive the benefit of his advice and guidance.” He then went on to say that “as an added bonus, he got an autographed copy of the minister’s latest book" which he had already started reading. Mr Shringla’s former colleagues maintain that his latest actions have robbed him of the credibility he enjoyed as a diplomat.

There is clearly a lack of coordination between the respective teams handling the election programmes of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former party chief Rahul Gandhi. This was clearly on display when Mr Kharge launched the party’s “Ghar Ghar Guarantee Initiative” in Delhi North-East parliamentary constituency recently where he distributed pamphlets on the party’s “Paanch Nyay Pachees Guarantee” schemes. However, the Congress president’s effort and message was virtually lost as the timing coincided with Rahul Gandhi’s speech after he filed his nomination papers from Wayanad. Naturally, this event hogged the limelight while Mr Kharge got no play in the media. Rahul Gandhi does not hold any office but it does not appear so as the Congress communications department continues to publicise his programmes and speeches as they did when he was party chief.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was initially tipped to be fielded by the Congress from the Satara Lok Sabha constituency. He is currently the MLA from Karad, an Assembly constituency in Satara. There were tough behind-the-scenes negotiations between the three partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance. Nationalist Congress Party (SP) leader Sharad Pawar apparently even agreed to concede the seat to Mr Chavan provided he contested on his party’s ticket. Mr Chavan was unwilling to do so though he fell foul of the Congress leadership as he was among the 23 Congress leaders who had written to former party president Sonia Gandhi to press for internal elections and organisational reforms. In the end, Mr Chavan lost out as the Satara seat has gone to Sharad Pawar’s party which has given the ticket to Shashikant Shinde.


Tags: robert vadra, congress candidates, 2024 lok sabha elections