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Home / India News / Rajasthan political crisis: Focus back on young-old divide in Congress

Rajasthan political crisis: Focus back on young-old divide in Congress

On Monday, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot called a meeting of MLAs at his house which deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot skipped.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2020 04:31 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot with deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot during a party committee meeting in Jaipur in September 2019.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot with deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot during a party committee meeting in Jaipur in September 2019. (PTI File Photo )

Not so long ago, one of the back rows of the Lok Sabha used tobe occupied by young and enthusiastic Congress leaders —men like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Jitin Prasada, Sandeep Dikshit and of course, Rahul Gandhi.

It was a new-age Congress that brandished youth power alongside its veterans. Cut to 2020: Scindia, 49, has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with his followers in Madhya Pradesh, Pilot, 42, is feeling sidelined and restive. Deora, 43, stepped down as Mumbai Congress chief, and some other young leaders are missing the political limelight., and some other young leaders are missing the political limelight.

Also read: Sachin Pilot hardens stand after setback in Jaipur, preps for Round 2

In Madhya Pradesh, Scindia was credited with scripting the victory of the Congress in the 2018 state polls, but for two years, he was not made state president. In March, he ended his association with the party. In Rajasthan, Pilot was credited with the party’s assembly poll victory only for his rivals to start lobbying with some central leaders for a new state Congress chief.

On Monday, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot called a meeting of MLAs at his house which Pilot skipped. The Congress also rushed two senior leaders in the desert state.

In the recent Rajya Sabha elections, a young leader—who did a creditable job as a spokesperson and chaired a key cell of the Congress—was overlooked to accommodate a veteran. In April 2019, Priyanka Chaturvedi, 40, quit the party, upset with the Congress leadership for bringing back leaders who once misbehaved with her. Chaturvedi has joined the Shiv Sena. In Assam, Himanta Biswa Sharma quit the Congress over his differences with Cong veteran Tarun Gogoi.

Also read: Rajasthan turmoil continues as Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot dig in heels

“There are several instances of veterans not treating young leaders with due respect,” said a party strategist. “In the run-up to the 2014 election, a powerful general secretary—considered close to Rahul Gandhi—earned a reputation of not behaving well with young leaders,” said a party insider who asked not to be named.

But a section of the Congress also pointed out how some young leaders have failed to boost the party’s prospects. “Ashok Tanwar was in charge of Haryana; under him, the Congress failed to win any major elections. Similarly, Milind Deora was the Mumbai Congress president but the party lost all seats in the city,” a party functionary said on condition of anonymity.

A senior functionary maintained, “Party has promoted young leaders. Pilot became an MP when he was 26, union minister at 34, PCC president at 35 and deputy CM when he was 40 years old.”

In the past too, the Congress has seen an exodus of prominent young leaders who were sidelined. Mamata Banerjee left the Congressin 1998due to a tussle with the party’s old guard and went on to become chief minister of West Bengal. Similarly, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy left the Congress and formed his own party after being sidelined in the Andhra Pradesh Congress following his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in a helicopter crash in 2009.

Also read: Rift internal issue of Cong, tracking developments, says BJP

To be sure, there are members of the old guard who are open to young leaders and workers, who acknowledge their role.

“When the Congress organized the first major rally in Delhi in 2015 against the proposed amendments to the UPA {United Progressive Alliance}-era land acquisition act, many young leaders were in the forefront of the show, but it was three-four veterans who provided the resources and manpower to make the show successful,” said a young Congress leader who handles legal affairs for the party ans who asked not to be named.

Many party leaders believe that the uncertainty in the central leadership, especially in the aftermath of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, has led to factional feuds in the Congress. With Rahul Gandhi resigning as party chief after the Lok Sabha poll debacle, regional leaders tried to enlarge their own political space at the expense ofyoung rivals, maintained two Delhi-based party functionaries, requesting anonymity.

“It’s not just a matter of old vs young problem. It’s inability of leaders on what they want. Jyotiraditya was not the first one, and Sachin is not the last one to have issues with senior leadership. I also think that after UPA-2, the party has not been managed well. It looks like they have lost heart for politics,” said political analyst Nilanjan Mukherjee.

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