Congress old guard proves mettle, outsmarts BJP in Karnataka amidst generational shift
The Congress agreed to play second fiddle to JD(S) in Karnataka despite bagging 78 seats and the latter only 37, in a significant departure from the past when the party would bargain for leadership role while negotiating post-poll alliances.Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 21, 2018 10:49 IST
The deft handling of the imbroglio following the Karnataka election results by Congress veterans has once again proven their relevance in the grand old party, which is in the midst of a generational shift after Rahul Gandhi took over as its chief in December last year.
After instructions from Gandhi, the leaders moved swiftly to wrest the initiative from a rampaging Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the next government in the southern state. Experienced leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, 69, and Ashok Gehlot, 67, helped outfox the BJP by offering support to the JD(S) with HD Kumaraswamy as the chief minister.
While JD(S) leaders HD Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy found the offer too tempting to resist, the BJP had not anticipated the move, particularly since the Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had attacked the JD(S) during the campaign trail, even calling it a “B-team” of the BJP.
That the Congress, with 78 legislators was willing to play second fiddle to the JD(S), which had bagged 37 seats, was a significant departure from the past when the party, in a similar situation, would insist on the leadership role while negotiating post-poll alliances.
In Meghalaya as well, the party had to rush senior leaders Ahmed Patel, 68, and Kamal Nath, 71, to talk to potential alliance partners after the Congress emerged as the single-largest party in the election held in February this year. However, the BJP outsmarted the two and went on to form a coalition government in the state.
Gehlot had been entrusted with the task of handling party affairs in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, just before the assembly polls last year. The Congress for the first time in the past two decades gave a tough fight to the BJP, significantly improving its tally.
“The old guard is here to stay. You cannot simply crush them and move forward. The young leaders should learn from the seniors. It is the experience of seniors and energy of the youth that will take the party to new heights,” Congress leader from Bihar Kishore Kumar Jha said.
Gandhi had announced at the party’s 84th plenary that he will strive to build a new Congress with “talented” youngsters but maintained that he will take along both young and old in making the party a powerful instrument of change.
Observers say the old guard will continue to play an important role in the Congress . “The senior leaders are a valuable asset for the Congress and have been deployed very imaginatively. The old guard and the young eagles must work together if the Congress has to revive in states and nationally,” said political analyst Balveer Arora.
The immediate task for Gandhi after the Karnataka is to carry out an elaborate organisational reshuffle of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
First Published: May 21, 2018 06:58 IST