Sonia re-elected Congress president for fourth term

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 4 2010, 07:13am hrs
The only thing that marred Sonia Gandhis otherwise smooth election as All India Congress Committee (AICC) president for a record fourth consecutive term was the sudden downpour that descended on Delhi this evening. A massive tent, to host the celebrations to follow the formality of her election, was flooded and festivities had to wait till the rain stemmed.

Otherwise the smooth re-election had a feeling of inevitability over it and was completed in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior leaders of the party. All Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) had filed nomination papers supporting her candidature in all 50 nominations had been filed and she was elected unopposed this afternoon. Her acceptance speech focussed on the aam aadmi agenda.

Since the beginning, the Congress has been working for every section of the society. Whether we are in government or not, we should not forget this big responsibility, she said.

Gandhis election is remarkable not only because she has ruled over the party unchallenged for over 12 years but also because she surpasses the record set by her grandfather-in-law Jawahar Lal Nehru and her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi. While Nehru had to contend with a galaxy of leaders who participated in the freedom movement, Indira Gandhi had to deal with leaders who had been her fathers colleagues. Sonia Gandhi inherited a Congress enfeebled by infighting and a loss of morale after the Sitaram Kesri years. And since then she has towered over the party.

Gandhis re-election sparked off a debate once again on whether a Congress with a Nehru-Gandhi at the helm of affairs was a possibility. The BJP had been quick to decry what they perceived as a lack of internal democracy in Indias oldest political party. The Congress predictably reacted with sharpness. Sonia Gandhi can be elected Congress president 40 times if it comes to that, said AICC media cell in charge Janardan Dwivedi.

Gandhi has been characterised as a reluctant inheritor of a political mantle of a family which she had married into. After refusing a political role, following the death of her husband, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, she joined the Congress in 1997 in the Kolkata plenary. In 1998, she became party president for her first term, plunging straight away into a baptism by fire, the General Elections of 1998, where Congress was defeated.

Six years in the opposition followed, along with some firming up of political opinion. This culminated in her Jan Sampark Yatras during the 2004 elections, the identification of farmers suicides as an issue and the Aam Aadmi agenda.

While she refused the post of Prime Minister in 2004 to avoid getting embroiled in the foreign origin issue, Gandhi has been more than active in influencing the policies of the UPA government in both its terms.