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Analysis | Cong. president post: The young versus the old divide in the party

With Sonia Gandhi continuing as the interim president for over nine months now, the party has to appoint a full-time president sooner than later. So far, the Congress has neither shown any urgency to appoint Ms. Gandhi as the full-time president nor elect a non-Gandhi.

With Sonia Gandhi continuing as the interim president for over nine months now, the party has to appoint a full-time president sooner than later. So far, the Congress has neither shown any urgency to appoint Ms. Gandhi as the full-time president nor elect a non-Gandhi.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

From outright disinterest to “I will do whatever my party says,” former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has been ambivalent about the leadership question.

With two press conferences, conversations with noted economists, including a Nobel laureate, and writing letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi certainly has stepped up his politics as well as visibility amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Is it a prelude to his taking over the reins of the Congress once again? At the May 8 press conference when the question popped up, this is how Mr. Gandhi answered: “Please see my letter from a year back!”.

For a year now, Mr. Gandhi, who will turn 50 this June, has avoided giving a direct reply. From outright disinterest to “I will do whatever my party says,” the former Congress chief has been ambivalent about the leadership question.

Also read: Comment | What Rahul Gandhi’s public consultations with experts say about leadership

Most journalists, including this writer, depending on who one speaks to within the party, report on different possibilities surfacing.

‘Complete overhaul’

There was much talk about a “complete overhaul” at a Congress session in one of the party-ruled States after it was hit by the Scindia storm. The exit of young Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was overlooked for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s post, promised to hasten things up.

With speculation over Sachin Pilot being the next target of poaching, the unofficial word from the Congress was that young faces would be given key positions in a new look All India Congress Committee (AICC).

Leaders such as Shashi Tharoor publicly advocated an open election where AICC delegates would elect their leaders, including the party chief.

Also read: Analysis | Jyotiraditya Scindia revolt a likely turning point in tussle within Congress

While talk of an election always meets with resistance, followed by suggestions of Mr. Gandhi resuming his duties as party chief, Mr. Scindia’s exit led to talks of a Congress plenary in Jaipur once the Budget session of Parliament ended.

But the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown put paid to all such plans if there were any.

Internal election

Congress insiders claimed that the party sought and got an extension from the Election Commission of India to hold its internal election by a few months.

With Sonia Gandhi continuing as the interim president for over nine months now, the party has to appoint a full-time president sooner than later.

So far, the Congress has neither shown any urgency to appoint Ms. Gandhi as the full-time president nor elect a non-Gandhi.

Also read: The search for a Chakrayya: on hunt for a new Congress President

What is the Congress waiting for? The press conference of May 8 holds a clue. After Mr. Gandhi finished his opening remarks at the Zoom press conference, reporters wanted to ask questions on specific aspects. Of the two reporters — one young TV reporter and a senior journalist who is a TV celebrity — moderator Randeep Surjewala asked the younger reporter to pose the first question.

“How come younger people are given a chance first?”asked Mr. Gandhi who laboured to hold back his sarcasm.

As innocuous as it seemed, the statement was a clear reflection of the young versus the old divide within the party and where Mr. Gandhi stood in this debate.

But then when Mr. Surjewala clubbed the senior journalist’s question with the young reporter, the Congress leader said, “Let him [the senior journalist] have his own space”.

The Congress is exactly going through the same confusion while deciding whether youngsters should take charge or the older and experienced lot should steer the party out of troubled times. The party, however, has to decide sooner than later as the lot of disgruntled leaders seem to be growing.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 5:38:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cong-president-post-the-young-versus-the-old-divide-in-the-party/article31588786.ece

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