The powerful disciplinary committee of the Congress is set to act on a complaint against two-time former MP Sandeep Dikshit by a group of young secretaries loyal to Rahul Gandhi for making remarks allegedly critical of the party vice-president.
A team of 24 AICC secretaries and leaders of frontal organisations (such as Mahila Congress, Youth Congress) told committee chairperson AK Antony last week that Dikshit had breached party discipline by repeatedly making comments and statements widely interpreted to be against Rahul. “Some of his statements sought to project there were serious differences between Soniaji and Rahulji on party matters,” a secretary said.
The Congress has been embroiled in what is widely seen as a generational battle over the possible elevation of Rahul with the old guard pitching for party chief Sonia Gandhi’s continuation and GenNext favouring an immediate takeover by the 44-year-old vice-president.
Several senior leaders have indicated that they hold Rahul and his team of young leaders responsible for the 130-year-old party’s growing disconnect with the masses, resulting in a string of recent electoral setbacks.
In recent media interactions, the son of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit suggested several times that Sonia should continue to lead the party as she was needed at the helm now more than ever. He said a change at this juncture could bring “friction” and delay the revival of an “electorally-weakened” party, and that Rahul needed time to gain experience.
Dikshit, also a party spokesperson, downplayed 68-year-old Sonia’s age issue and insisted mental fitness was required over physical fitness. “Sonia Gandhi can transfer presidentship of the party to anyone but she cannot bequeath her leadership to anybody she wants. Rahul Gandhi is a very capable leader, but when I have to make a choice at a time that is delicate, Soniaji will remain our best general,” the former east Delhi MP told the media.
Other party seniors have taken a similar view with Sheila Dikshit maintaining the majority of Congress leaders and workers have a great “comfort feeling” with Sonia and former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh suggesting Rahul first go on a country-wide mass contact programme and gain some experience.
Congress sources said Dikshit might be suspended from the party if found guilty of breach of discipline, but there was also a strong possibility he would be “let off this time with a severe reprimand and a warning to be careful in future”.
The secretaries, however, are adamant the Congress set a precedent and act against “loose canons” as they cause “irreparable damage” to the party. “They also give fodder to our opponents to attack us and divert attention from basic issues. Only stringent action against Sandeep will stop others from speaking out of turn.
Otherwise, you will have several Sandeep Dikshits, Sheila Dikshits and Captain Amarinder Singhs in the field,” said one secretary. “All these people have enjoyed power for years together.”