Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi [in picture] admitted to hospital; will her continued ill-health pave the way for Rahul to be Congress president?IANS File Photo

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Tuesday that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had been admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) in Delhi as she was suffering from viral fever, and that she would remain in the hospital for two days. SGRH management board chairman Dr DS Rana later said that routine tests were being conducted on her, and that she was already feeling better. 

Political observers, meanwhile, believe that her continued ill health could pave the way for Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to become party president and succeed his mother. 

Congress leadership strategy

The Congress, which has suffered quite a few defeats most of the time when someone from the Nehru-Gandhi clan has not led it in general elections, wants Rahul Gandhi to be party president and lead the party to electoral victory. The party has also begun projecting him as its prime-ministerial candidate, conducting polls on social media platforms to reaffirm its choice. 

However, there is a growing sense in a lot of political circles, including within the Congress, that Rahul may not be the best leader for the party at a time when the BJP is gunning for a "Congress-mukt Bharat" — Congress-free India — and even top leaders within the party have been differing with him on key issues, like P Chidambaram on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation move

Sonia's continued ill-health

However, all that may not matter because the Congress cannot seem to find within itself a leader other than Rahul to replace Sonia Gandhi, who has not been keeping well of recent. One of the top Indian politicians who are unwell but continue to work, Sonia had had to go to New York in 2011 for treatment — purportedly a surgery that greatly improved her health. 

More recently, in August this year, she collapsed while addressing a rally in Varanasi and was rushed to Delhi, complaining of high fever. It later transpired that she had dislocated her shoulder, and had to undergo a surgery to have it fixed. At age 69, Sonia can expect her health problems to only grow, and could very well be expected to abdicate the Congress top post in favour of her son.