Crisis has been brewing in Rajasthan Congress for the past few weeks. The group led by young Sachin Pilot has been demanding change of leadership. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has so far thwarted these attempts with blessings of the High Command.
Gehlot pushed for disqualification of the 19 rebel MLAs, including Pilot, but the Rajasthan High Court has granted relief to the camp. Gehlot is now pressuring the Governor to convene the Assembly session so that he can prove majority, trick the rebels into voting against the whip and get them finally disqualified.
The situation is still fluid.
This comes soon after another young and charismatic leader Jyotiraditya Scindia left the Congress in Madhya Pradesh along with his loyalists leading to the downfall of the 15-month old Kamal Nath government.
Scindia was upset with constant side-lining by the chief minister and the party High Command.
He wanted the Pradesh Congress President post which was denied. The 19 rebel MLAs, including 6 ministers, resigned from the Assembly paving way for the return of Shivraj Singh ‘Mama’ Chouhan as Madhya Pradesh chief minister.
Many young turks of the grand old party have come out in support of both Scindia and Pilot like Jitin Prasada, Devendra Singh Hooda, Milind Deora, to name a few.
Jyotiraditya Scindia is the third high profile young leader to leave Congress. Mamata Banerjee left Congress in 1997 at the age of 43 and formed Trinamool Congress, literally wiping off the Congress from West Bengal.
Jaganmohan Reddy left the party in 2010 and formed his own outfit YSR Congress. He damaged the Congress to such an extent that the party has no MLAs in Andhra Assembly currently.
Within 4 months of Scindia’s exit, Pilot could be the next big one to follow in his footsteps.
Why are young leaders leaving the Congress party?
1. No future in the party till Gandhis are at the helm
The Congress party revolves around the Gandhi family. The mother-daughter-son trio controls the party. Sonia is interim president of the Congress since the last 10 months after Rahul resigned following disastrous Lok Sabha performance.
Priyanka holds the post of general secretary despite a wipe-out in Uttar Pradesh of which she was partly in-charge.
Although Rahul doesn’t occupy any post, it’s known to all, he calls the shots. Sonia and Rahul have held the post of Congress President for the last 22 years. She has been the longest serving Congress President. From 1885 to 1998, the Congress party witnessed 85 presidential tenures; average being 1.3 years.
Till the Gandhis are there in party, nobody can dream of becoming Congress president. The post of Congress vice president is vacant after Rahul became president. The upside for all young leaders is maximum general secretary in the party. Chief ministership, as we have seen has been captured by the old loyalist guard of the Gandhis. In both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Gandhis chose Gehlot and Kamal Nath (old warhorses), respectively, versus Pilot and Scindia (young guns).
This policy ensures that no young leader can rise in popularity to challenge the authority of the Gandhis in the party. It’s said that an organisation’s culture flows from the top.
Since the Gandhis have been favouring family over party’s priorities, the leaders of the party also see no issue in propping up their sons and daughters. This is how dynastic politics rules in the party.
2. Bleak future of the ‘grand old party’
Many leaders are also leaving the party as they don’t see any future for the Congress in front of the formidable might of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Congress recorded its second consecutive drubbing at the hands of the Modi-Shah duo in the Lok Sabha elections 2014 and 2019. It has lost state after state to the BJP in the last 6 years.
It lost out to the BJP despite being the single largest party in Goa and Manipur. It lost two elected governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh due to infighting and inaction/lethargy of the High Command. Rajasthan could well be the third.
3. Leadership vacuum
The Congress does not have leaders to match the Modi-Shah-Nadda trio. Gandhis don’t have the charisma nor do they enjoy the credibility to take on Modi. Their name has been mired in many controversies. Strong regional satraps have left the party -- Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, Jaganmohan Reddy and Jyotiraditya Scindia -- making a big dent.
The current lot of leaders, including Rahul and Priyanka, do not inspire confidence. They do not seem to have the hunger for electoral politics and hesitate to slog it out on the ground. Just tweeting will not help! The policy of clipping the wings of leaders who had the potential to take on the Gandhis has made the party weaker from within.
4. Party ‘old guard’ threatening prospects
With Gandhis at the helm, the ‘old guard’ of the party is still clinging onto the powerful positions in the Congress Working Committee, which the party’s highest decision making body. The CWC is full of leaders who themselves do not remember when they last contested elections and seem to well past their prime.
Some of them are Indira, Rajiv loyalists. The average age of CWC members is 69, which is high compared to the BJP Parliamentary Board (57) and the CPM Politburo (60) and when 65 percent of India’s population is between 18 and 35 years of age.
These leaders are not in sync with the changes in the political landscape and aspirations of young India. They still are living in the era when caste politics, together with jod-tod, ruled the roost. To protect their personal interests they have not allowed young leaders to flourish.
Even Rahul Gandhi during his tenure as Congress president had to face non-cooperation from these senior leaders.
To sum up, the Congress is staring at another loss in Rajasthan. The anticipated exit of Pilot could trigger a round of exits which the party may not be able to handle. The High Command needs to act now else the party could be history.
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