For once, the Congress is seeing its members openly fault the strategy in handling its talent. On Sunday, former union minister Kapil Sibal tweeted,”Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stable”. Since then, a host of leaders of different ages are venting their frustration with what they describe as the inexplicably inaccessible Gandhis.
Unlike in Scindia’s case, Pilot was reportedly phoned by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra; Congress spokesperson RS Surjewla said even Sonia Gandhi reached out to Mr Pilot, urging him to reconsider the moves that were placing him in a daunting confrontation with the party.
There are not many in the Congress who feel that Pilot’s main ask could be substantiated – a promotion to Chief Minister. But there is this distinct complaint that Pilot could have been assuaged earlier, by offering him a clear demarcation of powers from those enjoyed by Gehlot, by in-person meetings with the Gandhis and by an assurance that Gehlot would be ordered to curtail a growing campaign to diminish Pilot’s stature. When Pilot visited Delhi about 10 days ago to warn that he was at break point, he was granted time with senior leaders like Ahmed Patel, but no slot with the Gandhis.
There is also a section of the party that believes that Rahul Gandhi needs to either return as Congress president and take accountability for his decisions – or surrender the ultimate authority he continues to exert on critical matters via his mother, who replaced him as Congress chief when he quit the post after the party’s debacle in the general election last year. Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, thirsting for direct attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are convinced that this strategy distinguishes them from other opposition leaders and are not open to rethinking their approach. Their loyalists dismiss anyone who disagrees as those “in touch with the BJP”.
Scindia quit the Congress in March after veteran Congressmen in his state, Madhya Pradesh, worked to relegate him to a sideshow. The Gandhis did not intervene at that time. When Pilot, on Sunday, made it clear that he will no longer tolerate Gehlot’s tactics to do the same to him, Scindia fist-bumped him on Twitter, posting, “Sad to see my erstwhile colleague Sachin Pilot too, being sidelined and persecuted by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the Congress”.
The conflict with Pilot was inflamed when he was served a notice by the state police for questioning in an investigation to determine if the BJP was making large offers of cash to Congress legislators to switch sides. It provided the last mile in Pilot’s journey to the Out gate. Scindia brought down the Madhya Pradesh government when he opted out of the Congress. The party contends with the prospect of Pilot providing a sequel in Rajasthan. It attests to the growing sinkhole that the Gandhi strategy has turned into. As the Congress tries to compute its losses, all forced errors, the family at its centre has much to explain. In Congress-speak, though, it will probably introspect at most.