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Scindia's exit reignites 'old vs young' debate in Congress

By Sanjeev Chopra
March 10, 2020 21:08 IST
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Scindia's departure from the Congress also raises question marks about delayed decision-making and status quo in the Congress. 

The exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia signals the deepening leadership crisis in the Congress which continues to grapple with factionalism and growing power struggles between old and young leaders.

The fact that Scindia failing to get an audience with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as pointed out by sources, reinforces the grudge many hold in the party about the high command becoming progressively distant.

Scindia's departure is seen as a big blow to the Congress, which lost a prominent young face, but it is also feared that his revolt may trigger a wave of dissensions in the party where youngsters have long felt sidelined by veterans.

The first Congress leader to publicly lament Scindia's departure on Tuesday was former MP and sitting Haryana MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi who said it was a big blow and the party needed to empower youngsters who resonate with the masses.

"Jyotiraditya Scindia's departure is a big blow to the Congress. He was a central pillar in the party and the leadership should've done more to convince him to stay. Like him, there are many other devoted INC leaders across the country who feel alienated, wasted & discontented. India's oldest party needs to empower young leaders who have the capacity to work hard and resonate with the masses," said Bishnoi, whose turf war with former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is well known.

Several young leaders in the Congress have been voicing their anxieties in public of late.

 

In Rajasthan, deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot is engaged in a continuous power tussle with chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

In Punjab, former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has been at loggerheads with chief minister Amarinder Singh.

Ahead of Maharashtra elections, former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam had threatened to quit the party accusing Sonia Gandhi's "coterie of sidelining Rahul Gandhi's team members".

Another young Maharashtra Congress leader Milind Deora has been striking a note of dissent of late.

"The resignation of Scindia may well encourage other disgruntled young leaders in the Congress to raise banners of revolt or to look for space in other parties. We have off and on heard of many Congress leaders being in backdoor channel talks with the BJP. Such parleys may get intense now," said a Congress insider.

Multiple issues like party is adrift, weak-decision making processes and uncertain future leadership are causing anxieties among leaders who have long political careers ahead of them, insiders say.

"Many leaders are feeling stifled in the party as they have no voice in the decision-making process. Scindia pointed out in his resignation letter today that he felt he could not serve the people or the country by staying in the Congress. That sense is shared by many leaders and the high command needs to address these concerns," said another senior leader.

Scindia's departure from the Congress also raises question marks about delayed decision-making and status quo in the Congress, with the former MP himself pointing out in the letter that Tuesday's events had been building up for a year.

After being denied the chief minister's post in 2018, Scindia waited for long to be PCC chief, even as Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh continued to steamroll his plans.

This week it became clear that Nath did not favour even a Rajya Sabha seat for Scindia, as several Madhya Pradesh leaders began demanding Priyanka Gandhi's entry to the upper house from the state.

Of the three seats going to elections from Madhya Pradesh, Congress was expected to get only two, with Digvijaya Singh the main contender and Priyanka's name floated as a second.

"It was only after all doors were shut on him, that Scindia decided to quit. The final harm was done by Sonia Gandhi's decision to not even meet Scindia, which the former MP would have taken as a blow to self respect," said a leader close to Scindia.

Veterans are in control of leadership roles across Congress state units with most of them being 70 plus.

"In such a scenario it is natural for youngsters to look for opportunities. Many young leaders also feel demoralised by Rahul Gandhi's continued reluctance to take up party's reins or stand by them. Scindia's proximity to Rahul Gandhi was well known but even Scindia did not get a hearing in the Congress what to talk of others," said a source.

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Sanjeev Chopra
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