The Congress’ women wing chief and former MP, Ms Sushmita Dev may not have the potential to rock the party’s wobbly boat but it has certainly triggered the debate afresh on two counts- the old guard versus the young Rahul Gandhi loyalist brigade, and whether organisational revamp should be the priority or that simply upping ante against the Narendra Modi Government will catapult the Congress to seat of reckoning.
Ms Dev’s resignation happening merely few days after she as part of a delegation of her home state Assam leaders had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and president-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi, must have come as rude shock to the Gandhi clan. After all she was a trusted member of Mr Gandhi’s team which is thinning by the day as one by one they are setting out for greener pastures despite some of them having been adjusted.
She is not the first Rahul Gandhi loyalist to have parted ways and hopefully she is the last as many others of this team are already flexing their muscles and ready to quit if their grievances are not addressed by the high command. Mr Gandhi must be a sad man as she is the third in row amongst his loyal to have deserted him at a time when he is engaged in a fight against Modi-led dispensation. Not long back his friends Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada had quit Congress to join BJP with another one in Sachin Pilot flexing his muscles every now and then.
Since there is no clarity as yet about the organisational elections including that of the party president an issue which was raised by a Group of 23 leaders last February. Suddenly the party (read Gandhis) are finding themselves sandwiched between the muscle flexing old guard and the restive and power hungry loyalist-younger brigade.
Ms Dev’s quitting party could not have happened at a time worst than this as after all despite having lost the Lok Sabha election she was made the party’s women’s wing chief. It has come at a time when the G23 group had almost lost its relevance as most of its members including the leader Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad seemed to have reconciled to the situation and accepted sundry assignments given by the party president and is tipped to be adjusted in the impending reshuffle.
The development has certainly pumped some fresh Adrenaline in their ( read G23) nerves which was visible in the impromptu reaction of one of the rebel leaders, Kapil Sibal who was recently in the headlines for having invited leaders of various opposition parties to his birthday dinner in quest of the opposition unity to face Narendra Modi. “The party is moving on with its eyes wide shut,” was how he reacted to Ms Dev quitting the party.
Not leaving it at that he further said, “Sushmita Dev resigns from primary membership of our Party. While young leaders leave we ‘oldies’ are blamed for our efforts to strengthen it.”
It should not be forgotten that Mi Sibal’s dinner was also attended by Mr Azad and many other members of the G23 group.
The more the Congress strategists try to resolve the inner conflicts the more the problems crop up. In fact the problems are more serious and multi-dimensional than the efforts made to set the house in order. The wait and watch approach adopted by the strategists to left the storm blow over is compounding the problems and in turn will weaken the party’s attempts at opposition unity and also fight against Mr Modi and his Government.
Getting back to Sushmita Dev development, it has to be seen in a wider context of Congress’ problems. Mr Sibal’s reaction is a clear indication that it has given a chance to the old guard to regroup and reinvigorate them and call the shots even if any of them does not quit the party. Both Ms Dev deserting the party and old guard calling the shots afresh does not augur well for the Congress high command. The development- Dev’s resignation and Sibal’s repartee- has set a new course for those feeling uneasy in the party though without making any personal contributions.
The time is fast ticking for the high command to take a decision on holding organisational elections. The time is also fast ticking for Mr Gandhi to take a decision on whether he would like to be the president again or pave way for someone else as his loyalist of the younger brigade deserting him will bring more pressure on him particularly from the old guard.
The Congress now is suddenly finding itself caught in a vortex of its own making with antagonised old guard on one side and the restive and over-ambitious young brigade on the other. What makes the matter worst for Mr Gandhi, irrespective of the fact whether he becomes president or not, is that none either among the old guard or his trusted young brigade is ready to battle it out on ground? Unfortunately for him and the Gandhi family they only want Mr Gandhi to lead and fight on road to regaining power and in turn share the spoils with them.
All those such as Punjab Chief Minister, Amrinder Singh, Rajashthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot and even Chattisgarh Chief Minister, Bhupesh Baghel, who are in power have been putting spokes in any attempt to address the aspirations of the younger leadership in their respective states. It was with great difficulty that the Captain agreed to Navjot Singh Siddhu becoming PCC president whereas Gehlot is still keeping the high command and Sachin Pilot on the tenterhooks. And the younger leaders behaving in Sushmita Deve fashion will only lead the Gandhis in a quandary.
At such a juncture such peace-meal approach will not serve any purpose. Total overhauling beginning with holding organisational elections and tough decision for across the board changes is what is direly needed to checkmate the old-guard and at the same time keep the younger brigade under check by giving them a ray of hope.
Attempts of the Congress’ at opposition unity, and its fight against Modi dispensation squarely hinges on the Congress’ inner party dynamics. A cohesive organisational setup is what the party requires to counter the well-oiled BJP machinery and at the same time convince the regional parties to accept it as the nodal for any opposition unity.
Sushmita Dev incident should be an eye-opener particularly for Rahul Gandhi. Mingling personal relations with politics is no more an option for him. Or else he should prepare for many such desertions and revolts which will not augur well either for him or the Congress. In turn it will further put the BJP in a place of advantage.
Rahul in loyalist Vs old guard trap