Just as destiny pulled her into politics, it has pushed her to continue in it despite a long-harboured desire for retirement. Any retirement for the former Congress chief, however, will have to be phased and won’t be absolute, especially with the 2024 Lok Sabha elections approaching.
Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi received a standing ovation as she stood up to speak at the 85th plenary session of the party following an emotional short film on her 20-year tenure as party chief and how she sacrificed the prime minister position in 2004.
The scenes beg some big questions. Is it time for another sacrifice? Will Sonia not contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections? Is it curtains for Sonia Gandhi as an active politician?
“I am glad that my innings ended with the Bharat Jodo yatra,” she ominously said at the end of her speech at the plenary session.
The statement can be interpreted in two ways. First, she could be referring to the end of her innings as the Congress president. Or second, she could be hinting that she will not be contesting the 2024 General Elections from Rae Bareli. But who if not Sonia? This could open up the possibility of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra taking the electoral plunge or Rahul Gandhi returning to UP after the crushing defeat from Amethi in 2019.
“It meant her innings as president ended, but it seemed like a goodbye speech. She will continue to be around for us,” Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit told News18.
When the media had asked Sonia Gandhi how she felt at being succeeded by Mallikarjun Kharge, she responded with a broad smile and said: “This is what I have been waiting for for a long time.”
Priyanka Gandhi has often stated that her mother would ideally want to retire and retreat to a cottage she had built near Shimla. But just as destiny pulled Sonia Gandhi into politics, it pushed her to continue after her son Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post following the defeat in 2019 elections. Sonia was interim president again.
But this time, it may be easier for Sonia Gandhi to retire. One, there is a party president in place. Two, after the Bharat Jodo yatra, it is clear that Rahul Gandhi will be the fulcrum of the party’s strategy in 2024.
However, any retirement plan put into motion would have to be in phases. Sonia is still the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress, and as 2024 approaches, the expectation and aptitude to negotiate alliances, particularly with leaders like Mamata Banerjee, rests on her shoulders.
Any retirement plan will also not be absolute as Sonia Gandhi, along with son Rahul, have been made permanent members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC). This means she will continue to have some sort of grip over the party. So while it may seem like a farewell speech, it may not be goodbye just yet for Sonia Gandhi.