Challenges will continue to grow, as it won’t be easy for Mallikarjun Kharge to strike a balance between three power centres in the party.


NEW DELHI: The real challenges for Mallikarjun Kharge, who became the first non-Gandhi Congress President in 24 years, will actually begin from the upcoming winter session of Parliament. After this, the challenges will continue to grow, as it won’t be easy for him to strike a balance between three power centres in the party.
Kharge has convened the first meeting of the steering committee to prepare strategy ahead of the winter session which will commence from 7 December. The meeting will take a call on holding the much-awaited Congress Plenary. The plenary alone will give final shape to organisational structure. The steering committee is likely to discuss the second part of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra as well. The date for the commencement of the second part of the yatra may be discussed, as the first part would end in February.
The strategy to oppose the policies of the Modi government in Parliament would also be discussed. After this meeting, Kharge will have a separate session with the Congress Parliamentary Party leaders. It will be for the first time that Rahul Gandhi will neither attend the meeting nor Parliament session. So, Kharge will be responsible for everything from coordinating with the opposition parties to targeting the government over various policies.
The Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh poll results will be delivered on the next day of the beginning of the session. The results would be important for Kharge, as the BJP and other parties would prepare their strategy in view of what happens on 8 December. However, those associated with Bharat Jodo Yatra did not take much interest in these polls. What keeps them satisfied is that Rahul is happy with the success of the yatra. These leaders seem to have advised Rahul not to focus on assembly results even if Congress loses. The logic of this theory is better known to the advisors only. The reports from Gujarat and Himachal are not encouraging for Congress. Kharge and Madhusudan Mistry by using words like “Ravana” already gave BJP a chance to hit back at Congress. This may spoil the Congress’ chances of repeating the 2017 performance. BJP will be quite aggressive against the grand old party if the latter ends up getting just 25-26 seats in Gujarat. The other parties in opposition may then distance themselves from the Congress.
The Congress is likely to receive a setback from Himachal as the BJP may retain power there. Analysts are confident that the saffron party will form the government again in Shimla. The BJP is sure of majority in Himachal, but despite this the saffron party has its plan ready to persuade the MLAs of other camps if so needed. The main advisors of Rahul Gandhi would be responsible if Congress loses in both states. These advisors are under the impression that the party can win central polls without winning states. The defeats will demoralise the Congress workers.
These results will add to Kharge’s challenges. Rahul Gandhi has already said during a presser at Indore that he has left “the old Rahul” behind. What he wanted to suggest was that he is now above the “victory and defeat” feelings. He is now not concerned about whether the party wins or loses. Jairam Ramesh’s behaviour during the presser was suggestive of his overconfidence about the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Was he trying to suggest that BJP’s defeat is certain in 2024? Ramesh seems to be doing the calculation of 2004 which predicted 200 LS seats for Congress. Kharge may not agree to it. He has been in politics for over five decades. So, he knows what it means to lose a state. He also knows that the Congress leaders would put blame on him for the party’s defeats sooner or later.
Next year, polls will be held in Karnataka, Telangana, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. Kharge has to make his team before polls in his home state Karnataka. The new team would reveal if the Congress has really come out of the influence of the Gandhis. Kharge has to face the electoral challenges in states all alone as Rahul may be in the second part of the yatra by the time state polls are held next year. Rahul Gandhi’s present yatra may be targeted after the results of Gujarat and Himachal, but the former party chief would proceed on another yatra next year.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s interference in party matters may give Kharge more headaches. She is the third power centre in the party. If Congress somehow wins Himachal, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would take credit for the victory and more interference from her would be seen in organisational matters. It means Kharge’s testing time will begin in December and will continue in the future as well.