While political observers found the letter of 23 signatories of Indian National Congress (INC) leaders amusing as it did not speak of snatching the party from the dynasty, organisation matriarch Sonia Gandhi thinks otherwise. The interim president of the INC has appointed Jairam Ramesh as the chief whip in one of her first acts to keep the party functionaries who signed the “dissident” letter that surfaced three days ago.
While former INC president Rahul Gandhi might or might not have said these 23 ‘rebels’ had had a truck with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Sonia Gandhi has formed a committee in the Rajya Sabha with her party’s treasurer and her political advisor Ahmed Patel and another loyalist KC Venugopal as members of the committee to deal with issues that may come up in the upper house.
This new committee will, in effect, sideline and keep under check Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Deputy Leader Anand Sharma — prominent names among the letter writers.
Both the politicians were instrumental in ensuring not many Rajya Sabha leaders come out in support of Sonia Gandhi.
To show she is not doing this exclusively to sideline the dissenters, Sonia Gandhi has appointed a similar committee in the Lok Sabha. There, Gaurav Gogoi is the deputy leader and Ravneet Singh Bittu is a whip. Both leaders are known to be close to the Gandhi family.
Sonia Gandhi has ensured also the marginalisation of other letter-writers like Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor in the Lok Sabha. Tiwari and Tharoor, both known for oratory, lost out because they were among the signatories, sources said.
With this decision, the days of leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma appear to be numbered as the leaders of the INC in the Rajya Sabha. However, top aides say Sonia Gandhi will wait for the monsoon session to end before ordering a change.