AS THE Congress grapples with its worst-ever leadership crisis in two decades, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday suggested that a “young leader” should be appointed as party president. His remarks stunned the party’s old guard, but were welcomed by the younger generation of leaders.
The party has been groping in the dark ever since Rahul Gandhi made his resignation public earlier this week. Senior leaders have held several rounds of informal discussions but are yet to arrive at a consensus on a leader who can helm the party at such a critical juncture, keep it united, and breathe life into it to take on an ascendant BJP.
Amid this confusion, Singh tweeted on Saturday: “After unfortunate decision of Rahul Gandhi to quit, hope to see another dynamic youth leader as Congress president to galvanise party. Urge CWC to take note of young India’s need for a young leader, aligned to aspirations of its large youth population and with grassroots connect.”
After unfortunate decision of @RahulGandhi to quit, hope to see another dynamic youth leader as @INCIndia president to galvanise party. Urge CWC to take note of young India’s need for a young leader, aligned to aspirations of its large youth population & with grassroots connect.
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) July 6, 2019
His tweet revived the old versus young debate in the party. While Singh did not take any names, party leaders said Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and AICC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh West Jyotiraditya Scindia are the two obvious choices if the party decides to opt for a younger leadership.
Pilot, as president of the Rajasthan Congress, led the party to victory in the Assembly elections just six months ago, but lost out to Ashok Gehlot in the chief ministerial race. Scindia was the party’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha.
“Captain being Captain, he has just given an honest view. But it is over simplification,” a veteran leader told The Sunday Express.
“What is the definition of young and old? In the last two elections, there were some 19 crore young, first-time voters. And what is Narendra Modi’s age? India is a very traditional society… it doesn’t work like that in India. Nowhere in the world has it worked like that, and more so in India. We have to make a very careful choice. You have to have a combination of both. You cannot have one to the exclusion of the other,” said another leader.
But the young leaders were all praise for Singh.
“When a senior Chief Minister says make a young leader president — I don’t know who will become the party chief in the end — but it is reassuring. That a senior leader like Singh is ready to work with someone who is young speaks volumes. Young does not mean that we want a 35-year-old. The point is that the person should have the personality and charm to attract the millennials. if you listen to the pulse of India, the country wants somebody young… even your workers want a young person,” said one of the young leaders.
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Former union minister and CWC member Jitin Prasada said: “It is unfortunate that Rahul Gandhi has resigned. But his letter has said a lot. The party has to take on the challenges that he has mentioned in the letter. His successor should be someone who can take on the challenges, cater to aspirational India, and, most importantly, galvanise the workers.”
AICC leader in charge of Jharkhand and CWC member RPN Singh said the party would take a collective decision on the issue. “Everybody will be consulted, and a collective decision will be taken,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources said many of the CWC members held a meeting on Saturday, continuing the informal discussions they held over the last two days. It is learnt that senior leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Anand Sharma, Motilal Vora, Scindia, Bhanwar Jitendra Singh and K C Venugopal have held at least three rounds of discussions in the last 48 hours.