Congress on Friday distanced itself from party leader Janardan Dwivedi's remarks that people in politics should not continue in active posts beyond 70 years of age even as another party leader Digvijay Singh backed him.
"Let me make it clear. This is his view and he is certainly entitled
to it... This is not the party view. This is not the party stand. This is his personal opinion," party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters in reply to a volley of questions on the issue.
His refrain was the same when asked whether Dwivedi's statement reflected that Congress wants to follow BJP's model of creating "old age home" for senior leaders, a taunt directed at the ruling party by Congress when it dropped LK Advani, MM Joshi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee from Parliamentary Board.
Asked whether any disciplinary action will be taken against Dwivedi on the issue as was taken against another party leader Jagmeet Singh Brar, Singhvi termed it "totally uncomparable comparison".
To a specific question on whether the party considers Dwivedi's remarks as "breach of discipline", Singhvi said, "These are your views. I am not saying anything of this sort".
To repeated queries as to what is the party stand on the matter, he said, "The status quo prior to the statement remains. Party's stand is the status that remained prior to this view".
A senior party leader speaking on condition of anonymity said that the sentiment expressed by Dwivedi were not improper but it is not feasible to have any specific cut offs in a large party like Congress.
Party general secretary Digvijay Singh, speaking separately, backed Dwivedi saying that "change is the law of nature".
Singh, who has generally been at odds with Dwivedi, recalled that in the Burari AICC sesssion 2010, he had pitched for a generational change in the party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
"I had said the same thing in Burari session. Congress party always gives opportunity to the youth. Change is the law of the nature. In the modern management lexicon, it is called succession management.
"It should happen at every level from top to bottom. I am in favour it. It is high time for major changes in the organisational structure," Singh said.
The conflicting views in Congress have been aired at a time when there is a likelihood of a generational shift in the party to take on a resurgent BJP.
Singh added, "We will do whatever we are asked to do. Antony Committee has given its report and the restructure should happen accordingly."
Citing examples of various other fields where elders handover the responsibility to a young team, Dwivedi had said "similarly generational change is also necessary in politics. After certain age, people should not live on active posts in a political organisation".
Dwivedi has at the same time said that he did not mean to say that people above 65 or 70 should retire from politics and that they can take other responsibilities that do not require hectic activities.
To a question on whether he wants his 65 or 70 formulae also to be applicable to 67-year-old Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Dwivedi said that the post of Congress President and some others could be exceptions to it.
The remarks of Dwivedi, who is the general secretary in charge of the organisation, had come on Thursday a few days after BJP dropped veterans Vajpayee, Advani and from the Parliamentary Board and named them in Margdarshak Mandal, mentor's group.
They also came at a time when there is intense speculation about imminent changes in the AICC setup with the younger generation likely to call the shots and leaders of Dwivedi's generation may be replaced.
Dwivedi's remarks were being seen as indication of things to come.
"The writing on the wall is clear. After such a debacle, a party can come back only after fighting on the street for which youngsters are needed. It is the young, who have to fight the electoral battle," another senior party functionary said on the condition of anonymity.
The average age of AICC secretaries appointed by Rahul Gandhi last year was 40 to 45 years. Besides a number of PCC chiefs like Ashok Tanwar in Haryana and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, who were appointed in the last one year are among the youth brigade.
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