The political battle currently underway in Rajasthan is the latest in a series: a few months ago in Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia dumped the Congress to join the BJP. In 2019, former Congress state chief for Haryana Ashok Tanwar quit the party before the October polls citing irregularities in ticket distribution. A month before Tanwar quit, former Jharkhand Congress chief Ajoy Kumar quit the party.
What links Scindia and Pilot is that both are young dynasts and leaders whose political careers were put on the fast track for growth by the Congress. Both were also close to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. In many ways they were the ‘mascots’ of Rahul Gandhi’s vision to empower young leaders within the party.
That’s why when both Scindia and Pilot, among other young leaders, find themselves outside the Congress parade, the role of Rahul Gandhi in this drama needs to be examined.
Analysts have hinted that it is not by accident, but that there is a design to these events. The old guards in the party have manipulated it in such a way that when Rahul Gandhi decides to resume the presidency of the party he will be without his trusted generals. Some analysts also say that by removing Scindia and Pilot, the party made things simple for Rahul, as in the long run his leadership would have been challenged by Scindia and Pilot.
Congress leaders and party spokespersons have talked about Pilot’s ‘ambitions’ getting the better of him, and that he needs to be patient. Well, patience might be a virtue, but not when the party has badly lost two consecutive elections, when its numbers in Parliament are deplorable, when with every passing day it is losing connect with a young India, and, definitely not when patience here would mean giving power to a senior leadership that reinforces one’s belief in the demand for a retirement age in politics.
Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has also advised Pilot to be patient, and “not be too emotional”. Interestingly, Himanta Biswas Sarma, who is a minister in the BJP-led government in Assam, left the Congress in 2014 after having differences with Gogoi.
Scindia’s exit in March and Pilot’s removal on July 14 should make it all the more difficult for Rahul Gandhi to morally assume leadership of the Congress. If young leaders who have proven their political worth by winning elections for the party are labelled as ‘ambitious’ for wanting to become chief ministers, what justification will be offered when and if Rahul Gandhi is appointed Congress President?
In August, it will be a year since Sonia Gandhi was appointed interim chief of the party, and the Congress will have to select a chief. Will Rahul Gandhi step up to the occasion and take a decision? Or will the uncertainty that has been looming over the grand old party continue?