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Questionable decisions: Congress's CM choices

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s decision to appoint Kamal Nath as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Ashok Gehlot as Chief Minister of Rajasthan sends the signal that the Congress is a party of the past, not of the future. He had a great opportunity to demonstrate that under his leadership the Congress could be a forward-looking party capable of responding to the aspirations of the youth, who form the bulk of the Indian population. More than 65% of India’s population is below the age of 35. It is this cohort that will determine election outcomes in the future.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gandhi squandered this opportunity. His refusal to nominate Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, both in their forties, as Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively, has demonstrated that he is a prisoner of the worst aspects of Congress culture. Although both worked hard to rejuvenate the Congress in their States, they were overlooked for leadership positions because of their age and lack of seniority.

It is even more galling that Mr. Nath and Mr. Gehlot carry some negative baggage. Mr. Nath was implicated in the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. He was let off for lack of enough evidence. Sajjan Kumar’s conviction could lead to the reopening of the case against him as well. Mr. Gehlot carries with him the stigma of being a two-time loser in State elections, in 2003 and 2013.

In contrast, Mr. Scindia and Mr. Pilot have the charisma and ability to mobilise support for their party, especially among the youth. This is particularly true of Mr. Pilot, who worked assiduously for over four years as president of the State Congress to rebuild the party in Rajasthan after it had been almost wiped out in 2013. The Congress owes its victory in Rajasthan in large measure to Mr. Pilot’s efforts.

Mr. Gandhi has conveyed a disheartening message to party cadres and supporters by ignoring Mr. Pilot’s claim. He has clearly signalled that hard work and dedication do not count for much when confronted by seniority and caste calculations. It is especially surprising that the Congress president, who belongs to the same generation as Mr. Pilot and Mr. Scindia, was appointed to head the party and is projected as its prime ministerial candidate despite his youth, should give short shrift to the two young leaders’ legitimate claims. He should have realised that if the same logic of youth and lack of experience had been applied in his case he would never have made it to the top of the party.

The appointment of “have beens” to the top positions in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in disregard of more deserving youthful candidates does not augur well for the Congress as the country heads towards the national elections.

The writer is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University


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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 3:39:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/questionable-decisions/article25766140.ece

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