Rahul Gandhi, as a result of the failed leadership he gave, is no longer the shining hope that the party’s new generation leaders believed he was.
With Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit from the Congress, a number of political analysts have opined that the development reflects the dominance of the old guard in the party and the sidelining of the young guard. This old guard is apparently headed by Sonia Gandhi while the young guard had Rahul Gandhi’s patronage. These experts add that, had Rahul Gandhi not abdicated and remained as party president, this tragedy would not have struck the Congress. This reasoning is flawed.
Today, while Scindia has walked out of the Congress, there is talk that Pilot could also rebel. Even if that does not happen immediately, the problem will continue to simmer and will boil over sooner than later.
Most knowledgeable people almost unanimously agree on the fact that the root of the problem lies in the developments which took place soon after the Congress won the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections in late 2018. Scindia was one of the prominent faces who played a major role in that win, and there were talks that he belonging to the new generation, would be made the Chief Minister. This was even more so because he was close to Rahul Gandhi — and Rahul Gandhi was the party president then. The deliberations that took place on the chief ministerial choice were helmed by Sonia Gandhi, with Priyanka Vadra chipping in with her thoughts. Had Rahul Gandhi put his foot down, there was no way the party president could have been overruled. But he let his mother and others who were rooting for the old guard, to have the final say.
A similar game was played alongside in Rajasthan, which too had voted for the Congress in the Assembly polls. Sachin Pilot, who had poured his heart and soul into the campaign and energized the party rank and file, was tipped to be the next Chief Minister. Like Scindia, he too was a Rahul Gandhi confidant and belonged to the younger generation. But here too, although the party president, Rahul Gandhi remained mute while a nominee of the old guard was chosen as the Chief Minister.
Thus, it was Rahul Gandhi’s inability to stand for his people — incidentally, they happened to be not just young and progressive but also capable — that gave rise to the crisis. From day one of government formation in both these States, it became evident that neither Pilot nor Scindia was pleased. In the months that followed, both these leaders found themselves and their supporters sidelined by the new dispensations for a variety of, unjustified, reasons. Soon, they began to speak out against their own governments and their Chief Ministers. Rahul Gandhi was still the party chief but he betrayed these young leaders who had trusted him. Today, while Scindia has walked out of the Congress, there is talk that Pilot could also rebel. Even if that does not happen immediately, the problem will continue to simmer and will boil over sooner than later.
And these are just two instances; there are others too. In Maharashtra, another younger generation Congress leader Milind Deora has been sidelined. It was because of Rahul Gandhi that the tall Assam leader Hemant Biswa Sarma quit the Congress and join the BJP. The new generation Congress chief of Tripura, who incidentally happens to be related to Scindia, too had been booted out months ago. he too had placed his trust in Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi never had the courage to take on the senior and crafty leaders of his party in tangible ways, especially those who were determined to not allow young blood (other than their own) to rise in prominence.
To say that Rahul Gandhi could have averted the Madhya Pradesh crisis had he been party president today, is, therefore, giving him credit that he does not deserve. While not in the post, he still commands influence and could have certainly intervened to manage the situation. Instead, he allowed the crisis to worsen over the past months and eventually explode. The media has reported that repeated attempts by disgruntled leaders to meet him had met with no success, as appointments were not forthcoming.
Had Rahul Gandhi been the party chief, what could he have done to prevent Scindia’s exit? Are we to believe that he would have cracked the whip on Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath who had systematically sought to undermine Scindia’s position in the State? Would Rahul Gandhi have pulled up Digvijaya Singh, who is no admirer of Kamal Nath but had teamed up with the latter to outfox Scindia? Similarly, it is difficult to believe that Rahul Gandhi can take on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who has snubbed Sachin Pilot on more than one occasion and who has been taken on by the latter publicly over the government’s failure to honour its promises to the people.
Rahul Gandhi never had the courage to take on the senior and crafty leaders of his party in tangible ways, especially those who were determined to not allow young blood (other than their own) to rise in prominence. The old guard was fine with Rahul Gandhi giving attention to the younger brigade through symbolic gestures and with the media perception that these people were important in and to the party. But when it came to the politics of sharing power, the old guard dug in its heels and refused to cooperate.
The old-guard lobby had Sonia Gandhi’s backing, which is evident. But why did Priyanka Vadra add weight and tilt the scales against Rahul Gandhi? If indeed there is a family disagreement brewing, then matters could get more complicated for the Congress party in the months to come. However, it is premature to go to town with the ‘Rahul versus Sonia/Priyanka’ kind of narrative.
In conclusion, the following is clear as daylight:
- One, the old guard versus new guard tussle within the Congress has intensified.
- Two, the old guard has manipulated the situation in its favour.
- Three, the new guard has been betrayed by its leader Rahul Gandhi.
- Four, the old guard has contempt for the new guard messiah Rahul Gandhi.
- Five, Rahul Gandhi, as a result of the failed leadership he gave, is no longer the shining hope that the party’s new generation leaders believed he was.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.