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Congress fears rival power centres

By George Iype in New Delhi
May 19, 2004 21:37 IST
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Will there be two centres of power in the Congress-led coalition government to be headed by Dr Manmohan Singh?

Dr Singh is the man who will be India's next prime minister. But Sonia Gandhi, who renounced the prime ministerial post, will continue to be Congress president. She will also be chairperson of the Congress Party in Parliament. But Dr Singh, as head of the new government, will be its leader.

Congress leaders say it is for the first time that the CPP chairperson will not be the prime minister even though the Congress is in power. The Congress amended the CPP rules to elect Gandhi as chairperson.

Now, Gandhi will lead the party while Dr Singh will head the government.

Strictly speaking, this cannot be called a new arrangement. In 1977, even though Indira Gandhi lost the election from Rae Bareilly, she was elected CPP chairperson while Y B Chavan was elected leader of the CPP in Parliament.

But some Congress leaders fear this arrangement will lead to two power centres in the party, with 10 Janpath becoming as powerful as 7 Race Course Road.

So, will Gandhi rule the country by remote? Will Dr Singh be a puppet prime minister?

"How can you even think of such a proposition?" retorted Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi. "She is the person who has just renounced power because she is not greedy for it. So there is no question of ruling by remote control."

According to Singhvi, it is the prime minister's prerogative to decide who his ministers should be and how the government's policies should be implemented.

"It will be a smoothly functioning arrangement," Singhvi added. "There is no need for any worry. Soniaji will continue to revamp and lead the party to greater heights. Dr Manmohan Singh will be the coalition government's able prime minister."

But other Congressmen do not believe the arrangement will be so easy. For anything and everything Congress leaders will land up at 10 Janpath, they predict. "There will be some dichotomy in the arrangement because the Congress president will be forced to wield her clout in course of time over the government," one Congress politician said.

But he ruled out a "situation like that which existed in Maharashtra", where Shiv Sena head Bal Thackeray acted as the remote control of the Manohar Joshi government some years back.

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George Iype in New Delhi