Pilot & Scindia Were ‘Impatient’, But Cong Top Brass Must Step Up

Congress leadership crisis: The party must convince Rahul Gandhi to return, or should elect someone else to lead.

Updated31 Jul 2020, 05:01 PM IST
Opinion
5 min read

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Ashok Tanwar, Kirti Pradyot Deb Barman, Ajoy Kumar, along with Milind Deora, Jitin Prasada, and RPN Singh were considered to be the Congress party’s ‘Gen Next’ leaders.

They were handpicked and promoted by Rahul Gandhi as his core team for the future — much like what his father, Rajiv Gandhi, had done with Ashok Gehlot, Ahmed Patel, Rajesh Pilot, Madhavrao Scindia, Digvijay Singh, and Arif Mohammed Khan. Most people expected the ‘old guard’ within the party to, at some stage, oppose or revolt against Rahul and the new leadership he was trying to put in place.

Instead, it’s the very people he was building up who have chosen to leave the party .

Scindia, Ajoy Kumar and Tanwar have already jumped ship, and Sachin Pilot is about to follow suit if he hasn’t already done so or will have done so by the time this appears in print.

Scindia Senior & Pilot Senior Stood By Congress Despite Internal Battles

Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot rode out the rough times. They battled and overcame factionalism and petty rivalries within the party. Ultimately, they carved a niche for themselves, both within and outside the party, but fate cruelly intervened and cut short their lives and their remarkable political journeys.

Within the Congress, Madhavrao Scindia fought his factional battles with the likes of Arjun Singh, the Shukla brothers, and Digvijay Singh; outside it, he vehemently opposed the BJP, till his tragic death in an air crash on a rainswept afternoon in September 2001.

Rajesh Pilot was no different. He contested against Sitaram Kesri for the post of party president, lost, and was eventually dropped from the Congress Working Committee. But he stayed on course and, as Minister of State for Home, was at the forefront in thwarting the BJP’s attempt to hold a rally in the capital in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. He continued to do so till his tragic death in a car accident in 2000.

Both Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot, despite the internal turf battles they had to contend within the Congress, stood by the party in the aftermath of its defeat in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections.

Until their deaths, both these leaders were at the forefront of the Congress’s fightback against the Vajpayee-led NDA government, both inside and outside parliament.

However, it should be noted that Madhavrao left the Congress after the denial of a Lok Sabha ticket in 1996 –– he had never lost an election since he entered the LS for the first time in 1971, and this denial was humiliating for him. Soon after, Scindia formed the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress (MPVC). He only returned to the Congress fold in 1998.

Snapshot
  • Most people expected the ‘old guard’ within the party to, at some stage, oppose or revolt against Rahul and the new leadership he was trying to put in place.
  • Instead, it’s the very people he was building up who have chosen to leave the party.
  • Both Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot, despite the internal turf battles, stood by the party in the aftermath of its defeat in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections.
  • But unlike their fathers, patience was not something the young leaders have in abundance.
  • Both Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot today would want the world to believe that their parting of ways with the Congress was about ‘principles’. Far from it.

Did Scindia & Pilot Really Leave the Congress Over ‘Principles’?

Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Ashok Tanwar and Ajoy Kumar were picked over other youngsters in the party because they were Rahul Gandhi’s friends, and came from somewhat similar backgrounds. Most of them were pedigreed, educated abroad, articulate, multi-lingual, and held out hope for the future. Rahul Gandhi actively promoted them, and was instrumental in their becoming ministers in the UPA government. They were preferred over some of the other youngsters who came from humbler backgrounds, and preferred to stay away from the limelight. It also says something about the choices Rahul Gandhi made — its these big names that have chosen to jump ship while the others continue to stay the course.

Both Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot today would want the world to believe that their parting of ways with the Congress was about ‘principles’. Far from it.

At best, it could have been about their party not keeping to its promises to them. While both maintain that they were ‘promised’ chief ministership of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively, the central leadership says that no time-frame was set for it. On the other hand, those close to the central leadership of the Congress maintain that Rahul Gandhi had repeatedly assured both Scindia and Pilot that their time would come, and that they needed to exercise patience. But unlike their fathers, patience was not something the young leaders have in abundance.

The script now appears to have gone horribly wrong not just for these young leaders but also for the Gandhis — particularly Rahul Gandhi. Following the rout in 2019, he quit as party president and, though talk of ‘comeback’ abounds, he continues to function in splendid isolation.

Cong Should Either Convince Rahul Gandhi To Return, Or Elect Another Head

The current crisis in the party has underscored the erosion in the power and authority of the Gandhi family. They have, for the longest time, been the glue that has held the party together by providing leadership and also being above factionalism. However , following successive defeats in 2014 and 2019, and the prevailing confusion with regard to leadership, the ability of the family to enforce decisions stands greatly diminished .

Scindia and Pilot may have displayed a singular lack of steel in standing with the party in adversity, but some of the blame also lies at the door of their party leadership.

Its propensity to leave issues unattended and to avoid taking decisions, has also contributed to the sad state that grand old party finds itself today. In Rajasthan, the Congress leadership should have worked out a power-sharing mechanism which would have ensured that, while Ashok Gehlot remained the chief minister, Sachin Pilot was given adequate responsibility and say in running the government.

The Congress party is perhaps going through its toughest phase since inception.

And before it begins the long haul back, it needs to resolve its leadership issue, clear its ideological confusion, rebuild its organisation, and come up with a narrative that is distinct as well as constructive.

Above all, it should either persuade Rahul Gandhi to return to the helm of its affairs and take up the leadership, or it should elect someone who is willing to take on this responsibility. For far too long, the Congress has avoided addressing these issues. Failure to do so now might just push the party over the precipice.

(The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached @javedmansari . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Published: 29 Jul 2020, 12:58 PM IST
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