New Delhi: A close aide of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi has come out in the open to question the leadership credentials of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and says it is only a matter of time when it will be challenged within the party along with that of his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi.
Rahul is a reluctant politician like his father Rajiv Gandhi and has his "limitations" as he has not been groomed for the job unlike his father whom Indira Gandhi herself groomed, says veteran Congress leader ML Fotedar in his yet to be released book "The Chinar Leaves".
Fotedar, who rose to become a Union Minister, also makes critical remarks about Sonia saying despite her many virtues, political management is not one of them and her obsession to promote Rahul further created problems in the party.
Amid a raging debate on when Rahul would take over the reins of Congress, Fotedar, in the HarperCollins publication, says Rahul had a "certain stubbornness" and his motivation to become a leader was "not very strong".
"Rahul Gandhi's leadership is unacceptable to the people of this country and Sonia Gandhi has her best years behind her. The party has no one to provide direction. It refuses to learn.
"It has made wrong choices while appointing opposition leaders in both Houses of Parliament. It has made wrong choices about how to deal with the challenges in the Assembly elections. In fact, there is nothing right which the party has done or is doing. It saddens me that the Nehru?Indira legacy has reached a cul-de-sac," he said.
He goes on to add that "Since Soniaji still is the unchallenged leader of the party, it should be her responsibility to reinvent the party. Blaming Rahul in a way is shifting the blame from the Congress president to someone who has yet to display his leadership skills.
"History is threatening to repeat itself. It is a matter of time before Soniaji's and Rahul's leadership is challenged from within the party. I will be observing closely how they stand up to this looming challenge, because Sonia is not Indira and Rahul is not Sanjay," the Congress leader said.
On Sonia, the former Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist said she will go down in history as the longest serving Congress president "even if not the most distinguished".
Fotedar said when Sonia took over as the party chief in 1998, the party was on the verge of disintegration and she helped to rebuild it from a position where its seats had come down to about 116.
The veteran Congressman, who is still a CWC member, said the supreme irony is that sixteen years later the party is again on the verge of collapse. "However, this time there is no saviour."
Fotedar's book also highlights how in contrast to Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul does not possess that kind of experience as his formative years were marred by seclusion owing to security concerns.
"Rahul needed more exposure and grinding to become ripe for the top job. Also, there was nobody to tutor or mentor Rahul. Sonia Gandhi is not Indira Gandhi and was herself dependent on so many people for what she should do," he said, adding that many of those who advised her were as ignorant as her on many issues.
"Rahul had a certain stubbornness and his motivation to become a leader was not very strong. People around Soniaji secretly did not wish him to succeed because they realized that if Rahul grew as a leader they would themselves become irrelevant.
"The dilemma before Soniaji was that on the one hand she could not do without her coterie while on the other hand she had an overriding desire to see her son succeed in politics," he said.
Fotedar also says there were too many vested interests all around and Sonia was reluctant to accept her responsibility for the decline of the Congress in the war of perceptions.
"Soniaji has many virtues but political management is not one of them. What she acquired over time she could not hold on to either because she lacked skills herself or those from whom she sought advice lacked them. The result was that the party started disintegrating.
"Her obsession to promote Rahul further created problems, with those close to her and those close to Rahul working at cross purposes. By the time the 2012 Assembly elections took place, the writing was on the wall: the Congress was on its way out in the 2014 parliamentary elections, if it did not take corrective steps," he said.
Fotedar said sycophants around the Congress president tried to create a perception that the increase in the number of seats for the party in previous elections was on account of the active participation of Rahul Gandhi in campaigning and his appeal as a youth icon.
"Soniaji allowed this perception to gain ground, thereby denying due credit to Dr Singh. It was abundantly clear that Soniaji had made up her mind to foist Rahul Gandhi on the party and the country and was waiting for the right time.
"In my judgement Rahul Gandhi had not been groomed for the job and was totally reluctant to take on the responsibility," the Congress elder said.
Fotedar, who has been sidelined by the party ever since Rajiv Gandhi's death after he was repeatedly ignored even for a Rajya Sabha berth, said in the book that he did not fit in with the new scheme of things of Sonia as she feared that he was not a sychophant and will not hesitate to tell the truth.
"Maybe she had strong apprehensions that I would not approve Rahul's candidacy for the prime minister's post largely because of his limitations and mainly because Indiraji had clearly indicated that Priyanka was to be her political heir eventually," he said.
The Congress leader also hit out at his detractors saying he was never going to be part of Sonia's preferred list of advisers, who, he said, were there due to her patronage rather than for their contributions to party.