The Hyderabad AICC was significant in many ways. It had the usual pomp and glitter of such shows attached to any ruling party jamboree, but, there was a remarkable confidence, direction and brazenness that was missing in the party for almost two decades, since that Mumbai centenary plenary in the Congress honeymoon days with Rajiv Gandhi.
Sonia Gandhi has effectively stepped into her husband'sshoes at Hyderabad. Reminiscent of the Mumbai call to eschew the power-brokers seeped into the system, Sonia Gandhi'sstern chiding of the culture of sycophancy in the party has taken everybody by surprise.
Those familiar with the Congress tradition will not find anything exceptional about both. The party has always been a balance between power-brokering and sycophancy. The scenes at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting and outside 10, Janpath after the May 2004 election are still fresh in our memory. The pattern of leadership change in the party for the past four generations has been through this engineering of sycophancy, in which the party men clamour for the allegedly reluctant, reclusive and reticent leader to come and rescue the party, inter alia, the nation, so that the chamchas and power-brokers could bask in the new ?daughter, son, in-law shine.? Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi were equally ?enigmatic? and ?unwilling? to shoulder the boorish helmsmanship.
More significant for the party is the newfound sprint in its gait. The party is eager and ready to reclaim lost territories. The AICC has rightly emphasised that the UPA is a parasite on its decaying trunk. Be it the Left in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, the National Congress in Maharashtra, the RJD in Bihar or the TRS in Andhra, the partners are eating into its vital space. The party can do well without them. And they are proving heavy millstone around its neck. Hence the call to seek to return to power at the Centre on its own. Equally striking was the AICC decision to aggressively confront and fight the Left parties. To proclaim the left of centre image the AICC called for its pet theme of restoration of BPL subsidies and review of role of the Non-Aligned Movement. The shrill attack on the BJP by the foreigner party president as dividing the nation sounds familiar and hollow.
But what actually reinforced the Congress confidence is the number of opinion polls suggesting the galloping popularity ratings of Sonia Gandhi and the reports of a favourable climate for a mid-term poll. The Congress position in the UPA is that of a man stuck between an adulterous wife and a quarrelsome landlord. Not a single action of the UPA has so far been appreciated by the Left. Look at the latest farce of the ?hands off Cuba? anti-US demonstration the Left is planning when the US President George Bush visits India. Such temerity cannot be tolerated for too long, the Congress understands. And this is the emphatic message between the lines emerging out of the Hyderabad AICC. The rest of it is game as usual.