Amid the Congress’ power tussle with Sachin Pilot and the impending political crisis in Rajasthan, a narrative has been going around that these rebellions are taking place as the Congress party can no longer retain its popular, younger leaders and that the central leadership, consisting of the Gandhi trio — Sonia, Rahul, and Priyanka — are to be blamed for every glitch in the party. But is that true? There are several schools of thought regarding the matter.
Let’s look at some and try to figure out Why are young leaders in the Congress revolting one after the other?
Sachin Pilot’s rebellion
Sachin Pilot’s exit from the Congress party was like a volcano waiting to erupt for a long time, precisely since the 2018 assembly elections when he was surpassed and Ashok Gehlot was chosen as the chief minister of Rajasthan. Pilot’s rebellion now threatens the Rajasthan government although the party in the state and the central leadership has expressed its faith in the Gehlot camp. But by making Gehlot his main target, Sachin Pilot “risks coming across as being petulant, over-ambitious and narrow-visioned,” as explained by Ruhi Tiwari, associate editor of The Print. She also added that it is a pity since “the 42-year-old has worked hard, toiled on the ground and not been afraid to immerse himself in the grime of grassroots politics. Not even his biggest detractors would deny how hard he had worked in Rajasthan, shifting his base to the state and nurturing his party there. Given his hard work and the relentless state-wide campaign ahead of the 2018 assembly elections, it was only natural for Pilot to be disappointed when Gehlot was made the CM. The problem, however, is how he allowed himself to get completely consumed by the turf war with Gehlot.”
The BJP’s role?
The supporters of Gehlot’s camp and some party members have also accused Pilot of aligning with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as he would later wish to join the opposition party after his exit from the Congress. Pilot, however, has since the beginning denied this and made it clear that he is not joining the BJP. “I am not joining the BJP. I would like to make it clear that I have no plans to join the BJP. The BJP link is an attempt to malign me in the eyes of the Gandhis,” Sachin Pilot told NDTV, also stating how hard he had worked to defeat the BJP in the first place. “I am still a member of the Congress party,” he added. These comments had come a day after he was removed as Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan and the party’s chief in the state. While many read this as a sign for Pilot to change loyalty, but several sources claimed that this reassurance by the former Congress member certainly pleased his bosses, i.e. the Gandhis. Sachin Pilot also told NDTV after his exit from the Congress that he is yet to decide on a future course of action. “I would like to serve the people of Rajasthan,” he added.
The BJP has been taking complete advantage of the situation from what could be understood by a few comments that came to the forefront after Pilot’s exit. “From Raipur to Delhi, Congress is rattled. There’s no leadership in and they’ve no control, so they’re making wrong decisions. This has caused dissatisfaction. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are a result of that dissatisfaction,” said BJP leader and former Chhattisgarh minister Brijmohan Agrawal.
Is the party leadership to blame?
As Pilot was not the only young leader to walk out of the Congress recently, it raises a lot of questions about the leadership in the party. Earlier, Jyotiraditya Scindia had been successful in bringing down the Madhya Pradesh government after defecting with his supporters to the opposition party, the BJP. Both of these leaders were young contenders in the Congress party, who now no longer will be a part of it. Criticising both the young leaders, TK Arun, Delhi Editor of the Economic Times wrote: “fault is not really with these leaders. The fault is with the party that parachutes these people into leadership positions, above the heads of people who have been working for the party for decades. Their chief qualification is their lineage.” He added that the Congress “should understand that it is not the divide between the young and the old that holds the party back. Rather it is the absence of democratic politics on the ground, such as organising the migrant workers or backing the COVID-afflicted in their search for treatment and relief, that holds them back. Carry out mass politics, and leaders would emerge from them to replace today’s seniors.”
Some experts are even saying that it is a problem of factions that are to be typically controlled by the central leadership, which has not been happening in Congress for quite some time now. Both the younger leaders who exited, Scindia and Pilot headed their respective factions in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. They both wanted more power/representation for their own supporting camps or even themselves. While Pilot vehemently tried all his tactics to become the Rajasthan chief minister, Scindia wanted a more significant role in the state of Madhya Pradesh. However, neither of them at the end could attain their goals. Some on one side have said that both of these young leaders could have been given their shares in the respective states and they would be appeased and their demands met. However, there is also an alternative narrative that suggests that neither of the two had enough MLAs backing them for the Congress’ bosses to put complete faith in them.
Difficult path ahead
It is now being predicted by some that the Nehru-Gandhi family’s task becomes even more difficult now after Scindia and Pilot’s exit. Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Congress union minister said Scindia and Pilot were both ‘best friends’ with Rahul Gandhi. “It was their proximity to him that created the mythology of the older generation versus the younger, engaged in a life-and-death tussle to climb the maypole of prominence in the Congress. There were other youngsters who were more modest in their ambitions and in their achievements. They are the ones who remain in the ranks of the faithful. It is the high achievers who leave for what they believe to be richer pastures.”
So, finally, the lesson for Congress should be that it needs a reliable, hands-on leader who enjoys the confidence of the party. But the options always boil down to — Rahul, Sonia or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, this is in the party’s DNA and any one of them will do. However, this takes the difficulty level a notch higher with not much left to do in the Central government or even in the states. What will happen? Only time will tell.
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