Sonia Gandhi, after the death of Sanjay Gandhi, dissuaded his husband Rajiv Gandhi from entering into politics, but having felt the pain of his mother he stood beside her and consequently he could do nothing but to follow his mother. When Indira Gandhi was shot dead, Rajiv Gandhi was hectically engaged in a political tour and had to rush to Delhi where the Congress top brass made him the Parliamentary Party President and he was sworn in as the Prime Minister of the country. After the burden of loss of her husband, she was not at all interested in politics. She rejected the offer to take over as the party president in 1991. P V Narasimha Rao handled the minority government for full term and then the coalition governments of Devi Gouda and Inder Kumar Gujral came to their end when the party leaders forced her to lead the party in 1998. It was an uphill task for her to bring the party to power at the centre when only three states were under the Congress rule and even senior leaders were disheartened. Within six years, she built up the Congress organizationally and leadership-wise. The BJP was ruling the country under the most popular leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The popularity graph of the BJP government was hit by the Gujarat riots carnage in 2002 when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of the state. Before 2004 elections, a newspaper columnist wrote that after the polls Sonia Gandhi would have no address. But it was she who not only led the party to win the elections but also to write the new address of the country by taking up number of revolutionary legislations like employment guarantee in rural areas, food security, right to information and right to education and other schemes. For second term, the Congress further reduced the BJP seats in Lok Sabha. However, it was the compulsion of coalition that the second term was marked by the malfunctioning of government and the BJP exploited the situation and came to power in 2014. The number of Congress seats was reduced to 44, the lowest in the history of the Congress.
The then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh succeeded to run the coalition successfully in his first term but miserably failed to detect and stop the alleged misdeeds of his colleagues in second term. In the mid-way, Sonia Gandhi was unable to change the leadership and had to face the end to the regime. As a president of the party, if she intervened in the government functioning it was not ‘dictating’ to the Prime Minister as the BJP and some other parities alleged. The then Prime Minister could not remove or rectify the rot in the government that caused the downfall of the Congress rule, but as an economist par excellence he achieved the growth rate to which the BJP government is still to reach. Anna Hazare by his movement for the Lok Pal Bill damaged the image of the government. The BJP was waiting in wings to strike the Achilles heel and it did. However, within three years, the government flaws and drawbacks have become the public exhibition. Gujarat is the first reaction of the people who reduced the seats of the ruling party giving it the first warning.
After leading the party to power in 2004, Sonia Gandhi refused to become the Prime Minister of the country when there was no hurdle in the way to the top post of the country. She created a new epoch-making history for the party as its President and that has come to its end. Now the baton is given to Rahul Gandhi under somewhat the same circumstances when his mother took the responsibility of the party. Now it is up to him to click the same as his mother did to revive the party and defeat the forces of communal extremism. Now is a more pressing need.