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Dismantling of team Rahul goes beyond ‘old vs young’ narrative

Rahul Gandhi appointees who have quit, including Ashok Tanwar, Sanjay Nirupam and Milind Deora, Navjot Sidhu, Aditi Singh, Pradyot Debbarman, were promoted out of turn.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 07, 2019, 12.19 PM IST
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The contrasting political profile of the senior leaders and the younger lot highlight a core difference.
NEW DELHI: In less than two months since Sonia Gandhi returned as Congress president, a number of Rahul Gandhi appointees have been removed or have turned hostile, or have even quit, as the party leadership is grappling with an unprecedented churn, even as it confronts a formidable Narendra Modi government.

Most of Rahul Gandhi’s appointees who have fallen by the wayside or have quit – including Ashok Tanwar (Haryana), Sanjay Nirupam and Milind Deora (Mumbai), Navjot Singh Sidhu (Punjab), Aditi Singh (UP) and Pradyot Debbarman (Tripura) – were those who were promoted out of turn.

While Tanwar, Nirupam and Debbarman lamented that “Rahul loyalists are being sidelined”, Congress observers have noticed that Gandhi himself is doing nothing, directly or indirectly, to resist or protest such ousters or exits. It appeared to be “business as usual” for Gandhi, as he reportedly went abroad on Saturday night – when election pitch is peaking in Haryana and Maharashtra – not long after visiting the US last month.

It is also significant that when many projected the recent search for his successor as a “fight between the young and old leaders”, and despite Captain Amarinder Singh, Karan Singh and Milind Deora openly pitching for a “young and charismatic leader” becoming Congress president, Gandhi didn’t even exercise his right as the outgoing president to recommend any “young leader” to succeed him. The inability of the “Rahul camp” to explain why their ‘boss’ never fought for them remains a significant element in the churning.

Meanwhile, the recent targeting of Digvijaya Singh-Kamal Nath axis by Jyotiraditya Scindia-MP forest minister Umang Singhar team came to a halt as soon as Singh’s brother Laxman Singh openly said Rahul Gandhi “must apologise” for making an unrealistic waiver promise to MP farmers.

Similarly, the discourse in Rajasthan Congress has progressed from “whether Pilot will replace Gehlot as CM” to “whether Pilot can retain PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) post or will he be saddled with one more deputy CM”. Equally, despite Sidhu styling himself as Rahul-Priyanka protégé, the Gandhi siblings never shielded Sidhu when Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh “grounded” him. “If Rahul ji can voluntarily give up the topmost post, why should he become party to others’ fights for posts?” said a party leader.

“Seeing the tussle as a ‘young vs old’ fight would be erroneous as politics is always a craft of survival of the fittest, between those who have staying prowess for surviving and consolidating and those who lack them despite decorated with designations,” said a Congress veteran .

Although Tanwar and Nirupam alleged injustice, they appeared to have forgotten that they had been given unusually long five-year and four-year tenures respectively as PCC chiefs but failed to consolidate like BS Hooda and Gurudas Kamath.

The contrasting political profile of the senior leaders and the younger lot highlight a core difference. Most senior Congress leaders – now in their 60s and 70s – had come up through the party’s student wings NSUI and IYC as “storm troopers” of the Indira Gandhi-Sanjay Gandhi school. These leaders had fought against the Janata, VP Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee regimes and consolidated their positions by ousting their entrenched seniors.

On the other hand, most of the young leaders appointed by Rahul Gandhi came to politics after exploring other careers or as “inheritors”, thus lacking the skills and experience to wage the war within the party.

As more shake-ups are expected in the PCCs and AICC, many younger leaders are also confused whether they should continue as “Rahul loyalists” or pitch their tents in the Priyanka Gandhi court -- some have started this migration discreetly – as a parallel guessing game is on whether Sonia Gandhi’s son or daughter will emerge as the next heir of the family and the party in crisis.
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