Rajya Sabha Polls: Congress Tries To Get Hold of Dissenters With Its List of RS Nominees

New Delhi: The Congress list of ten Rajya Sabha nominees may have shocked many outside the Congress, but it makes sense to the party faithful and those familiar with the palace intrigue and games that are often played in the grand old party. The Rajya Sabha nominations make mockery of Udaipur Chintan Shivar deliberations such as one family one ticket, 50 under 50 norms, and adequate representation of women, minorities, dalits, adivasis etc.

The induction of Rajiv Shukla, Pramod Tiwari, Mukul Wasnik, Randeep Singh Surjewala, and Ranjeet Ranjan reflects Sonia Gandhi’s desire to reward loyalty. Jairam Ramesh, P Chidambaram, Vivek Tanka , Ajay Makan and Imran Pratapgarhi have made the cut on grounds of their ‘utility’ factor. More significantly, the absence of Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma is intriguing as these two dissenters were recently drafted in the AICC’s political affairs committee.

Without a Rajya Sabha berth, a place in a poor and toothless imitation of the Congress Parliamentary Board is worth nothing. The Congress’s choice of three ‘outsiders’ in Rajasthan, Surjewala, Wasnik and Tiwari, and two from another party ruled state Chhattisgarh — Shukla and Ranjeet Rajan– is most baffling. Equally surprising is a sense of complete surrender from two Congress chief ministers Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel who did not back any aspirant from the home states.

At another level, the Congress list is a manifestation of a ‘palace intrigue.’

Days after March 10, 2022 state assembly results, a group of disgruntled dissenters had sought to break ranks from the grand old party but professional compulsions, lack of resources, acceptable leadership and courage saved a split in the Congress.

Credible sources say at a gathering (held before Udaipur Chintan Shivar of May 13-15), a veteran war horse had reportedly asked a prominent lawyer to take the lead. He was offered support in exchange for discontinuing lucrative legal practice and mobilizing resources. The lawyer, perpetually ambitious and a known Narendra Modi baiter, however, declined, pointing out he would employ different means to forge opposition unity than to lead a breakaway faction of the Congress.

A prominent leader from Haryana, too, excused himself on grounds that he would make another bid for power in October 2024 to lead the Congress from the front. This dissenter and his son have subsequently been accommodated in the Congress set-up.

Three more people with legal background who fancy themselves as dissenters, declined to be part of any breakaway group. Their reasoning was interesting. One lawyer cited poor health, other his remaining term in parliament, and the third, utter regard for AICC interim chief, Sonia Gandhi. In fact, a sense of gratitude and loyalty towards Sonia has been a common thread among all dissidents.

Many back them. Leaders from Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and few other states felt that a separate identity would not help either in the state polls or in the Lok Sabha polls. Disgruntled leaders named a prominent Congress leader from Rajasthan as their face but others contradicted pointing at the Rajasthan leader’s track record of staying on with the parent organisation.

There is more to it.

Informed Congress sources say deliberations among the dissenters were subsequently reported to Sonia Gandhi who reportedly has had more than one ‘mole’ among the dissidents. Apparently, she remained non-judgemental. But while finalising the list of Rajya Sabha berths, she did weigh in things that are going on in the grand old party. In this sense, Rajya Sabha nominations reflected what Sonia felt about some of the key dissenters.

(With inputs from agencies)