THE CRISIS threatening the Congress government in Rajasthan, just four months after the party let Madhya Pradesh slip from its grasp, has once again underlined the leadership vacuum in the party and how its sense of drift is deepening faultlines within: old versus young, second-generation leaders versus those who rose through the ranks.
On Sunday, the party’s top leaders appeared divided on what led to the latest clash between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Deputy Sachin Pilot, but they were united in asking the high command to “wake up” and “save the government” — a recurring theme ever since Rahul Gandhi walked away from the top post last year, leaving Sonia Gandhi holding interim charge.
The disquiet within can be gauged from an unusual tweet by party loyalist, senior leader and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal. “Worried for our party. Will we wake up only after the horses have bolted from our stables?” he wrote.
Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor was more circumspect. “I passionately believe that our country needs a genuinely liberal party headed by centrist professionals committed to inclusive politics and respectful of India’s pluralism. All who believe in the founding values of the Republic must work to strengthen @INCIndia not undermine it,” he tweeted.
Without referring to the crisis, Karthi P Chidambaram, Sivaganga MP and son of former Union Minister and Rajya Sabha MP P Chidambaram, tweeted: “Why is @Google a successful company? Because it lets talent to become entrepreneurial within the organisation. Lessons to be learnt here.”
And yet, what summed up the party’s predicament was a tweet from the man who had pulled the plug on its government in Madhya Pradesh. “Sad to see my erstwhile colleague, @SachinPilot too, being sidelined and persecuted by Rajasthan CM… Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the @INCIndia,” posted Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is now a prominent BJP face.
On Saturday, Gehlot had raised the pitch by taking a swipe at Pilot after police arrested two BJP members for allegedly trying to lure away Congress and Independent MLAs with offers of Rs 20-25 crore each. Gehlot said that “only one can be CM” although his party “may have 5-7 people who may be contenders for CM and may also have the capability and talent”.
“Although Sachin is the state Congress president and Deputy CM, Gehlot has virtually deprived him of all powers. Sachin says he cannot even recommend a transfer,” a senior leader said.
Another leader disagreed: “Those who were paradropped because they were sons of Congress leaders, like Scindia and Pilot, those who have not come through the NSUI and the Youth Congress, those who are Rahul Gandhi’s preferred people…they are the ones not showing any loyalty to the party…this shows how bad your judgement of people is.”
Several leaders agreed that the leadership vacuum is adding to problems. Former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily and Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha said the high command should step in immediately.
“Everybody cannot occupy the same post. Even leaders should have flexibility. But if they cannot resolve this themselves, the high command should resolve it immediately… Soniaji has to act now and inject discipline in the party,” Moily said.
Tankha said “millions of Congress workers are looking at the high command for solutions”. “As a person wedded to the Congress ideology, it is very disheartening and sad to witness this weakening of the party,” he said.
“It is deeply unfortunate that we seem to have learnt little from the Madhya Pradesh catastrophe. Since the Lok Sabha defeat in 2019, we have meekly surrendered Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, and allowed our state units in Gujarat, etc., to weaken. It is imperative that the Rajasthan crisis is resolved at the earliest,” said Sanjay Jha, who was removed as party spokesperson last month after warning in an article that the party was facing “political obsolescence”.
However, party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi struck a restrained note. “This is the time for balance, restraint and sobriety. Differences inevitably exist but the cause of the party is always larger. I have no doubt that this turbulence will not last,” he said.
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