‘Generational shift’ has been a recurrent theme within the Congress for the final 15 years, however it’s conspicuously absent from the discourse across the occasion’s presidential polls subsequent month. The main contenders — a doughty veteran and a flamboyant mental — are 71 and 66 respectively. The opposite names doing the rounds are even older: Mallikarjun Kharge (80), Kamal Nath (75) and Digvijaya Singh (75).
Three-term chief minister Ashok Gehlot, a member of the Previous Guard, is the odds-on favorite whereas the charismatic (albeit controversial) three-term MP Shashi Tharoor, a member of the ‘dissident’ G-23, is the underdog. His candidature could not pose a critical problem, however will lend a flavour of election slightly than choice to the method.
The query is, the place are the GenNext leaders? Rahul Gandhi, the perpetually reluctant prince, has turned a deaf ear to pleas by 11 state items to take over as occasion president as soon as once more. And the quinquagenarians he has nurtured and promoted, similar to KC Venugopal, Randeep Surjewala, Jitendra Singh and Ajay Maken, are clearly no match for a Gehlot, Tharoor or Kharge.
For all their confirmed management abilities, Sachin Pilot (45) and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel (61) are overshadowed by Gehlot. Lok Sabha MP and G-23 member Manish Tewari (56) could throw his hat into the ring, however to no actual objective if Tharoor contests.
The Congress does have up-and-coming children like Lok Sabha MP Manickam Tagore (47), former CPI member Kanhaiya Kumar and MLA Jignesh Mevani (but to formally be a part of the occasion) however they’ve a really lengthy strategy to go. A number of the state items have youthful faces on the helm however once more, they’re but to show themselves.
The generational change trope has led to a number of members of the Previous Guard being marginalised or quitting, notably Captain Amarinder Singh, Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad, however no younger leaders of stature have emerged of their place. Pilot is an exception.
In reality, a few of the most promising younger faces have abandoned the occasion lately, amongst them Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Sushmita Dev, Ashok Tanwar and RPN Singh. Among the many youthful members of G-23 who haven’t are Milind Deora (45) and Sandeep Dikshit (58). Mukul Wasnik, evergreen at 62, appears to be again in favour.
A lot of those that have left cite their frustration with the inaccessibility of the management, the tradition of sycophancy and the absence of a consultative course of. Erstwhile spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill is a living proof. In March this yr, he was quoted as saying it was very important that the “political way forward for Indian Nationwide Congress shines for the way forward for this nation”. 5 months later, the 38-year-old give up the occasion, presumably seeing no future for himself in it.
After the Congress was routed within the Meeting elections, discussions turned but once more to nurturing younger expertise in order to mobilise youthful voters. The GenNext brigade, now a lot older than it was when the controversy started, articulated the identical concern: when will the Previous Guard vacate the electoral area for younger leaders?
Changing the veterans is a tough train. The common age of Congress MPs has definitely declined from 60-plus in 2014 to 55-plus in 2019, however the old-timers nonetheless get pleasure from larger winnability. The experiment of fielding greater than 50 per cent new faces within the Kerala Meeting elections final yr failed, with the occasion failing to unseat the Left Entrance.
The over-dependence on the Previous Guard argues a failure to construct up new leaders. In contrast to the BJP, the Congress can’t faucet into an ever-present wellspring of expertise. Again within the early 2010s, Rahul Gandhi tried to institutionalise a mechanism to advertise grassroots leaders up the ranks, however quickly misplaced curiosity when issues cropped up.
After he turned vice-president in 2013, he asserted the necessity for dynamic younger representatives. The 2014 elections had been a impolite shock; if the veterans had been denied tickets, the Congress would have had little or no illustration within the Lok Sabha.
Rahul Gandhi tried to bypass the previous energy construction by creating his personal coterie comprising Madhusudan Mistry, Mohan Prakash, CP Joshi, BK Hariprasad and others, in addition to a core staff comprising non-political people drawn from varied fields. However after the electoral debacle, the tried and trusted Previous Guard was again, serving as trouble-shooters, money-managers, communicators and election managers.
He remained uncomfortable with them, nevertheless, and by 2020, it was clear that solely chosen members of the Previous Guard would thrive, particularly the household loyalists. Those that put their very own ambitions first with out a mass base to again them up could be consigned to the doghouse.
Gehlot is a household loyalist, albeit not at all times pliable. He has twice check-mated Sachin Pilot and has proved wily sufficient to counter the BJP’s machinations in his state. As Congress president, he must surrender the CM’s submit. He would favor to put in a placeholder, slightly than yield the submit to Pilot.
Rahul Gandhi’s need to reshape the Congress is commendable, however corporate-style talent-spotting and grooming haven’t yielded outcomes. Nurturing and selling grassroots staff and being attentive to their wants is the best way ahead. For the second, it’s the veterans who’ve the political abilities and savvy to tackle the BJP.
Bhavdeep Kang is a contract author and creator of ‘Gurus: Tales of India’s Main Babas’ and ‘Simply Transferred: The Untold Story of Ashok Khemka’. A journalist since 1986, she has written extensively on nationwide politics. Views expressed are private.