19 years of Antonia Edvige Albina Maino aka Sonia Gandhi as Congress President is coming to an end as her son Rahul Gandhi has been ‘unanimously elected’ to carry on the Gandhi legacy in the century-old party. One of the most polarizing figures in the Indian political domain, she led the party for 19 years.
In 1999, when she was virtually asked to lead the party, she was a novice in politics, at least apparently. Then came 2004 when she refused to become Indian Prime Minister and became the early game changer in the UPA government, where PM Manmohan Singh was merely a puppet.
The 2014 Lok Sabha Elections proved to be a costlier loss for Sonia Gandhi as her son truly lagged behind his opponent and was decimated to double digits. With ailing health, Sonia Gandhi has settled for a change and the ‘Gandhian’ Congress Party is ready to welcome the fourth generation of the family at the helm of affairs.
When Sonia Gandhi assumed the charge of Congress, Indian political domain was entering a completely different phase. The PV Narasimha Rao – Sitaram Keshari era ushered a different brand of politics for Congress after Rajeev Gandhi’s assassination. In 1998, Congress was indeed in a difficult phase where it ruled only in four states namely Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Mizoram, and Nagaland. With only 141 members in the Lok Sabha, Congress was not at all a threat to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s coalition dharma.
Sonia Gandhi finally decided to come out of her hibernation and on March 14, 1998, she was elected as the Congress President. A year later she was literally stumped by senior leader Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar who opposed her due to the foreign origin.
For a brief phase, she resigned and then she took back after ‘staged’ huger-strikes from Congress workers. When the Vajpayee government couldn’t win in trust vote, Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav snubbed Sonia Gandhi and thus Congress was not being able to form the government.
Certainly, the golden phase of Sonia Gandhi’s era came in 2004 when she led Congress and defeated ‘over-confident’ NDA. Her biggest masterstroke was to refuse the Prime Minister’s post. Being the UPA chairperson she was the ultimate band-master, approving all equations and decisions with much ease.
There is no denying the fact that there are so many questions regarding the political existence of Sonia Gandhi, which are always ducked by the Congress Party. Even when she was in good health, many a time, she simply vanished from the public eye and never clarified. There have been debates regarding her involvement in the Bofors scam too. Her inability to take hold of the scam-hit Congress is considered one of the primary reasons behind the rise of Narendra Modi.
As far as political acumen is considered, her credibility has always been under serious scanner. People close to 10 Janpath have always said that people like Ahmed Patel, Digvijay Singh, and others simply dominated the situation. The Robert Vadra fiasco all didn’t Sonia Gandhi to tackle the political movement against the UPA government. Sonia Gandhi has never been a mass leader rather who got direct entry due to her Gandhi surname.
Anyhow, Sonia Gandhi, albeit controversial, did help Congress to recover from the crucial mid 90’s slump. At present, Congress is facing existential crisis and they are desperate to make a comeback in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. It remains to be seen whether Sonia Gandhi’s decision to ‘make’ Rahul Gandhi President of the Congress Party will pay dividend or not.