Rahul Gandhi would bring with him a new team for Congress when he takes over as its president by March next year or even earlier, senior leader Jairam Ramesh said on Sunday, indicating that leaders above the age of 60 may only play an advisory role under the new dispensation.
While suggesting a graceful exit for leaders in the 70-plus category, the senior Congress leader emphasised that the transition process would be smooth and that Rahul will not treat seniors the way Modi treated his seniors in the party.
“There is (will be) no bloodbath (when Rahul takes over).I don’t think Gandhi will treat the seniors the way Modi has treated the seniors. Modi has sent (LK) Advani), Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh… everybody to Siberia,” the Congress Rajya Sabha member told PTI in an interview.
Earlier this year, the former Environment Minister expected Rahul to take over as party president in 2015 but now says it’s taking time as the latter is busy picking his team and shaping the structure of the party under him.
Ramesh said when Rahul assumes charge, it’s not one individual taking over; it’s a whole team being put in place.
“So, he (Rahul) has been spending a lot of time figuring out the structure plus the people. Structure without the people is meaningless, and the people without structure is not very useful. So, from what I gather in the past few months he has been devoting time to finalising the structure as well as the people to fill that structure”.
On when Rahul would take over, he noted that “(calendar year) 2015 is not yet over” and said it’s certain to happen by March (next year) at the most but added that only two people – (Sonia) Gandhi and (Rahul) Gandhi, as he put it – know the exact time-line.
The expected change of guard in Congress leadership is “undoubtedly” a generation shift, seen for the first time after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1984 following the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi, Ramesh said.
“We must get the 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds in positions of prominence (in Congress). The time for 60-year-olds, 70-year-olds and the 80-year-olds is over,” he expressed.
“You must reflect India. The median age in India is 28. So, there must be a generational shift, and there was a generational shift when Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister (in 1984).
Asked then if leaders above 60 years should make a graceful exit before being “pushed out,” Ramesh said there is a place for older generation also and there has to be a blend or marriage between youth and experience.
“We must get a younger generation in their 30s and 40s. They (leaders above the age of 60) will be there; they should provide the years of experience, wisdom and all the things that comes with age. And after 70, you should have a graceful exit,” he said.
To a question on whether Rahul should “move on” after his repeated “suit-boot-ki-sarkar” jibe against the Narendra Modi government, Ramesh said it was a “great jibe” and the Congress Vice-President’s narrative is not just a “negative narrative” and he is building a “larger narrative”, pointing out that he had been reaching out to different sections of society, including farmers, start-ups, ex-servicemen, students and teachers.
He rejected suggestions that the Congress is missing in action in Bihar Assembly election campaigning.
“It’s not true. We are contesting 40 seats. The results in Bihar will prove to be second nail in Modi’s coffin (after Delhi Assembly outcome).We are very much present there (in Bihar elections),” he said.
As for whether he sees signs of Congress revival after the drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha elections last year, Ramesh said there is growing disenchantment and disappointment with Modi.
“Our challenge is to convert that disenchantment and disappointment into some positive feeling towards the Congress. That’s the real task ahead of us. That’s something we need to proactively work towards,” he said.
“It’s not automatic that the disenchantment and disappointment will translate into enchantment with us.That we have to work towards. And once a new team (under Rahul Gandhi), new vigour and new energy is in place, things will become much better,” he said.