The biggest rebellion in Indian politics right now puts Sonia Gandhi in a fix. So, what’s next?

WHEN SHARAD Pawar led PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar out of the Congress in 1999, over the choice of Italian-born Sonia Gandhi as party president, the rebellion came in a meeting of the Congress Working Committee. The Congress was not entirely prepared for it, but it got its assessment right: they calculated that Pawar would be a problem, but he would not get big enough to take Sonia’s place.

Now, when first-time Lok Sabha member YS Jagan Mohan Reddy challenges Sonia over what he considers his rightful place as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, the revolt comes from the streets. Pawar had demanded that an Indian should head the Congress; it didn’t deliver for him. Jagan Mohan says he is the heir to his father’s office; his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy died in a helicopter crash in September 2009. It is a tricky pitch.

Jagan has, in what must be considered as the second phase of his campaign to be Andhra Pradesh chief minister, made himself party to a dispute. In the first phase, when he led a huge group of Andhra MLAs against Chief Minister K Rosaiah, he was an upstart. Now, the Congress leadership might have to talk to Jagan, either in peace or in war. The brashness of his revolt shows how things have changed in the Congress. This is about media power, OB vans, an army of reporters, non-stop coverage; this is about packaging a man keen on grabbing his share of the political pie. This is not about sacrifice or service. And it seems to be working, at least in part.

Read the rest in Tehelka issue dated July 24, 2010

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