Tale of Two Presidents

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Throughout the last fortnight, we have had triumphant Congress spokespersons beating their chests with pride and talking about how democratic the Congress is for it is the only political party that is holding elections to the post of the party chief. And then they would talk about how the BJP may have had several party presidents who came from different families, but these were all nominated and not elected candidates. In this, the Congress was right to take the higher moral ground, for however flawed the process may be (there have been allegations that the PCC Delegates who will elect the next party chief have mostly been nominated, not elected and therefore will tend to follow the high command’s line), it still had the optics of a democratic process.
Then came the Rajasthan crisis and the very man elected to be trouble shooter has now become the party’s main problem. Suddenly the narrative has changed from the election process to a conversation around the Gandhi family’s inability to pick the right team. At a time when Rahul Gandhi is busy with his Bharat Jodo yatra, the BJP is having a fine time taking potshots at him for not being able to keep his party together. As Union Cabinet Minister and BJP leader Bhupinder Yadav tweeted with a picture of Rahul flanked by both Sachin and Ashok Gehlot, that first Rahul should focus on uniting these two! Having said this, there is an attempt to mend fences between the Gandhis and the Gehlot camp with some leaders pointing out that the Rajasthan CM had never taken on the “family” or spoken against the Gandhis, but that that his “rebellion” was targeted against Sachin Pilot only. Whether the Gandhis buy this spin or not, it still makes them look bad, for the commentary now is that the leadership had no clue what was brewing at the state level. The first thumb rule of public life is never go public with a vote if you don’t know which way it’s going to turn out. How could the Gandhis not know that the bulk of the state MLAs would support Gehlot and not Pilot? 
In the meantime, while the Congress was busy hogging all the headlines for all the wrong reasons (suddenly Rahul’s Bharat Jodo yatra has vanished from the media mentions), the BJP quietly gave a second term to its incumbent party president J.P. Nadda. There was no talk of election or nomination or competing candidates. A decision was taken and it was conveyed. End of debate. Since Nadda’s term does not finish till end this year, there was enough time to take a decision on his extension. It didn’t have to be announced in the middle of a Congress crisis. But it was, only to be buried amidst the Congress drama. Perhaps the BJP wanted it this way.
At the end, though the BJP went in for a nomination and the Congress is still struggling to go ahead with its election, it is the former that has come out looking good. Unfortunately for it, the Congress is looking even worse off than before the presidential process started. Talk about shooting itself in the foot.
PRIYA SAHGAL

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