CONG: REINVENTION, OR BUSINESS AS USUAL?

Young Bites. Dated: 7/10/2019 11:14:45 AM

Some younger elements in the Congress appointed not too long ago by Rahul Gandhi, when he was the president of the party de facto and de jure, have resigned from their positions, accepting responsibility for the party’s crushing defeat in the recent Lok Sabha election. In that sense they have walked in the footsteps of their leader and benefactor, and have projected their allegiance to the idea of “accountability”, which Mr Gandhi has spoken of several times in recent weeks. But it is premature — perhaps even unrealistic — to think that senior members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will be shamed into resigning, and that the young elements, among whom are recently appointed general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia and recently appointed chief of Mumbai City Congress Milind Deora, will become trendsetters. Without adequate analytical justification, there has been a trend in media descriptions to create a “young guard” versus “old guard” dichotomy in the Congress, with the former made to look like being virtuous and the latter power-hungry in the Congress context. It is the power-grabbers who are the so-called loyalists and sycophants of the Nehru-Gandhi family who must bow and scrape to earn their keep. This appears a simplistic notion, for who can deny that even the so-called “young guard” have got to their respective positions of privilege as a matter of patronage, and not through a process of jostling with peers in the marketplace of democratic politics? It is precisely this aspect of the Congress’ culture against which Mr Gandhi has chafed of late. His very firm decision to resign as party chief is a no-nonsense repudiation of the politics of dynasty and patronage that has wrecked the Congress from within over a long period of time. If the Congress is to be revived after its terrible defeat in the recent Parliament election, it cannot be patronage politics as usual, Mr Gandhi appears to believe quite justifiably. And he has himself resigned in order to set an example. But his resignation has not yet had a serious effect on the CWC. His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, for instance, has not put in her papers. There is nothing unusual about this, though. As per the party’s history and tradition, it is Mr Gandhi’s successor as party chief who will constitute the new CWC, and in doing so may retain any non-elected members s/he may wish to. Mr Deora has made his intention known to work at the national level in order to “stabilise” the party. There is some presumptuousness here, perhaps born of exuberance. He has also proposed a group of three to manage the affairs of the Mumbai Congress but it is not clear if that is his call to make. It is heartening, nevertheless, that young leaders like Mr Deora have put their ambitions on the table. This can eventually make way for a proper democratic contest for the top slots in the Congress.

 

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