New Delhi, Sep 6 (IANS) Stonewalled and barricaded out of meatier roles in the Congress party as the Old Guard stages a comeback following the resignation of Rahul Gandhi as President, leading Young Turks of the party are said to be toying with the idea of forming a ginger group to maintain a separate identity within it.
Sources said that among those who could be in this group are Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Deepender Hooda and Jitin Prasada. All have been Union ministers in UPA governments and had been primed for greater responsibilities. At the time their rise was seen as moving in tandem with Rahul Gandhi’s greater role in the party and his elevation as party President.
The breaking point is said to have come last month over the succession plan following Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. Closed-door discussions over the preceding weeks had thrown up the idea of several working Presidents, which had then been narrowed down to two such positions. It was also meant to keep the Congress first family out of the leadership position.
Through all this, two names were consistently cited for the top slots: Scindia and Pilot’s. However, at the Congress Working Committee meeting in August, the Old Guard wrestled its way back into reckoning and put their ambitions in the shade.
In recent times, the Young Turks have often taken a position at variance with the party — and seemingly in line with the BJP — or challenged the Congress leadership in their areas. There is no ready way to calculate the loss to the party should they break away or form a ginger group since, barring Pilot, none of the others has blazed a trail of electoral wins recently.
Pilot, perhaps the one who has the biggest mass base among these five young Congress leaders, is Deputy Chief Minister in Rajasthan and is frequently on collision course with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, a Congress loyalist at one time close to Rahul Gandhi.
Jyotiraditya Scindia is on collision course with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath — in fact, he is in open rebellion against him. He claims to have the support more than 25 party MLAs, but sources say this is an inflated claim. Things might have been different for him had he won his Lok Sabha seat from Guna, a traditional family bastion.
Deepender Hooda, who once sat alongside Rahul Gandhi in the Congress middle rows when the UPA was in power at the Centre, would have seen his political prospects growing modest by the day, especially after he lost his Rohtak Lok Sabha seat.
The return of the Old Guard appear to have left him with little option than to seek a different path. Recently, his father, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, supported the Modi government on its decision on Article 370 and commented that the Congress opposition to it was a sign that it had lost its way.
Milind Deora, who lost from South Mumbai in the Lok Sabha polls, but had been recognised as a leading light of Rahul Gandhi’s group, recently lamented that the decision on Article 370 had been converted into a liberal versus conservative debate. With his own party firmly in the crosshairs, he counseled that the interests of the country should instead be prioritized.
Even Jitin Prasada, who lost the election to the Dhaurahra seat in Uttar Pradesh — he also lost his deposit — has not attacked the government on the economy, while his party has done precisely that. Instead, he has suggested that India’s population is holding it back. This is in line with what the Bharatiya Janata Party has said.
The Congress has had a history of breaking up into several power groups when faced with a crisis, as now. Pilot, Scindia, Prasada, Deora and Hooda are staunch Congressmen but with the party at its lowest point ever, and the BJP typically eyeing big fish in the Congress camp, their actions and statements are being keenly watched.