Sonia Silences The Dissenters, Sets Sight On 2022 Poll Contests

Over the coming weeks, the party may give important roles to the G-23, like in the past, as all of them are seasoned politicians and have faced many electoral contests.


In a deft move, Sonia Gandhi has silenced the G-23 by deciding to hold Congress’ internal polls next year.

In the process, she has thrown the ball in the court of the dissenters, who will now have to channelize their energies towards ensuring the party’s win in the coming round of assembly elections early 2022.

The dissenters, who came to be known as G-23, had surfaced in August last year when they urged Sonia Gandhi, who was interim chief, to overhaul the grand old party by holding internal elections for all party posts, right from district chiefs to that of the Congress president.

Since then, the G-23 raised the demand several times to pressure Sonia as they thought that she was somehow reluctant to go in for an elaborate democratic exercise.

Though the G-23 were slammed occasionally by Sonia loyalists for questioning her authority, the dissenters claimed they were flagging an issue which was needed to strengthen the grand old party.

The Congress had been suffering from an inertia, they alleged, at a time when the party was expected to play a strong opposition to the ruling BJP. Since there was nothing wrong with that line of argument, the market value of G-23 remained intact.

Their demand has now been addressed in the form of a detailed schedule which will culminate with the election of a full-time party president by September 2022.

The decision has taken the wind out of the G-23’s sails as their blame game has taken a twist. The G-23 will now be expected to lie low till the internal polls are over and play their part in the coming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur early 2022.

These polls are crucial for the Congress, which is trying to assert itself as an anchor and forge opposition unity ahead of the 2024 national elections.

Unfortunately, the party did not do well in the April round of assembly polls in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, which gave an opportunity to the G-23 to raise questions about leadership’s decision-making.

However, this won’t be possible for the coming poll contests though, largely, the status quo would prevail in the party. Sonia would remain in charge as interim chief while her children Rahul and Priyanka would continue to call the shots.

Yet, how the G-23 members conduct themselves, including the comments they make, would come under sharper scrutiny of the Gandhi family loyalists.

Over the coming weeks, the party may give important roles to the G-23, like in the past, as all of them are seasoned politicians and have faced many electoral contests.

Cautioning G-23

In a clear snub to the G-23, Sonia Gandhi reminded them that though she held an interim charge, she was discharging her duties as a full-time party chief.

She further cautioned the dissenters not to wash dirty linen in public and work unitedly for the coming state elections.

That assertion was quite against Sonia’s style of functioning, which is based on consensus.

In the case of G-23, she spoke to them several times to understand their issues after their dissent letter was made public. During these discussions, the veterans were assured that their concerns would be looked into but somehow follow-up action got delayed, making the seniors restless.

Later, the dissenters were made part of key party panels by Sonia to reassure them and let them feel involved in organizational work.

Interestingly, most of the veteran dissenters have worked closely with Sonia over the past two decades and were familiar with her style of functioning. Yet, they got impatient and started airing their views in the media, which did not go down well with the party chief.

The leadership was grappling with infighting issues in several state units and discordant voices from the veterans only complicated things, rather than offer any solutions.

It may be recalled that during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, Sonia, who had not kept good health, took upon herself the task of leading the opposition when doubts were being cast over leadership in the grand old party.

At the same time, she also let her son and former party chief Rahul Gandhi to play the anchor role as various opposition parties realized they needed to put up a united face, following the BJP’s defeat in the West Bengal elections.

Eye on polls

The next six months are going to be crucial for the party and could not have been devoted to preparing for internal elections when intense poll battles await them.

The BJP rules four out of the five poll-bound states and would invest huge resources in its campaign to retain the same.

In contrast, the Congress is punching above its weight in UP, where Priyanka is leading the charge, while the party is trying to stage a comeback in Uttarakhand.

In Punjab, the party has put in place a new set of leadership including chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi and state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu but both the leaders have just a few months to beat the anti-incumbency.

Besides, party managers are not sure if the two will work together as a team. In between, Punjab in charge Harish Rawat, a former Uttarakhand chief minister, wants that he be relieved of the northern state’s charge so that he can concentrate more on his home state.

Party managers think they have a good chance of coming back in the hill state where the ruling BJP was forced to change three chief ministers over the past six months due to discontentment in the state unit.

The Congress has revamped the unit In Goa and hopes to take on not only the ruling BJP but Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress, who have also joined the contest in the coastal state.

In separate setbacks, the Congress recently lost its former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro to TMC while ex-Manipur chief Govindas Konthoujam moved to the BJP.

For the record, the G-23 veterans welcomed the schedule for the Congress’ internal polls and swore by Sonia’s leadership.

However, the real test would be to keep themselves aligned with the leader’s vision.

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