The young vs old battle in the Congress was out in the open on Sunday as two close associates of Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora, made public their resignation from their respective party posts ahead of the Congress Working Committee meeting.
This will mount pressure on the elders to follow suit even as the party is battling turmoil triggered by Rahul’s resignation as party president, taking responsibility for the Lok Sabha election defeat. Both Deora and Scindia told The Indian Express they had resigned several days ago.
In a statement, Deora interestingly added that he was looking forward to “playing a national role to help stabilise the party”. This comes a day after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh demanded that a “young leader” take over as Congress president.
While the obvious choices are considered to be Scindia and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, Deora, many believe, has now thrown his hat into the ring. Scindia quit as the AICC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh West and Deora as president of the party’s Mumbai unit. However, it is not known whether Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh East, has expressed her desire to quit or offered her resignation.
Ever since Rahul made public his resignation, the party’s senior leadership has been working overtime to find a consensus candidate to head the party or put in place an alternative mechanism. One option being considered is to appoint a veteran leader as the president to be assisted by two or more young working presidents.
Deora said his resignation was to show solidarity with Rahul. “Although I was made president of the Mumbai Congress on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, barely one month before polling day, and had very little time to repair the damage done to the organisation in terms of its moving away from the Congress party’s multi-cultural, multi-lingual ideals… I still feel after meeting Rahul Gandhi on June 26 that, in the spirit of collective responsibility, I should resign,” he told The Indian Express.
In that context, he said, he had offered his resignation to Rahul, AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge and AICC general secretary in charge of organisation K C Venugopal. “I will continue to serve the party in whatever capacity I can and to guide Mumbai and unite leaders and take everyone along here. I only hope that the incoming president continues to follow the ideals of the Congress party, which means that we remain multi-lingual, multi-cultural, socio-economically inclusive, and we don’t go to our earlier days of identity politics.”
Deora’s resignation comes months ahead of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra. The Congress had lost all the five seats in Mumbai in the general elections.
A statement issued by Deora’s office quoted him as saying, “I had accepted the MRCC (Mumbai Regional Congress Committee) Presidentship in the interest of uniting the party. I felt I should also resign after meeting Rahul Gandhi. I suggested a panel and am being consulted by leaders to identify names. I look forward to playing a national role to help stabilise the party. Needless to say, I will continue to guide and unite Mumbai Congress.” Deora has suggested that the city unit now be led by a collective leadership of three senior leaders till the Assembly polls.
Deora’s predecessor Sanjay Nirupam immediately hit out at him. “The idea to appoint 3 member committee to run Mumbai Congress in place of President is not at all appropriate. It will ruin the party further,” he tweeted.
He also took a jibe at Deora, saying while resignation was an act of sacrifice, “here a national level position is being sought the next moment. Is this a resignation or a ladder to climb up to the top? The party should be cautious with such ‘hard-working’ people”.
Deora had replaced Nirupam as the Mumbai Congress chief in March.
Talking to The Indian Express, Scindia said he had sent in his resignation at least eight to 10 days ago. Scindia is the second AICC general secretary to resign after Deepak Babaria, who was in charge of Madhya Pradesh. On Saturday, Indian Youth Congress president Keshav Chand Yadav had resigned.