Indian National Congress is losing not just states to the rival BJP but young, dynamic leaders too or more rightly put it is losing states of late because it is losing young leaders. Sachin Pilot became the latest in the list of leaders to rebel against the party owing to differences with his senior party leader Ashok Gehlot. Earlier, Jyotiraditya Scindia left the camp with 22 rebel MLAs to topple senior leader Kamal Nath’s government in Madhya Pradesh. While Sachin Pilot has not jumped ship yet, as he explicitly stated he was still a member of the Congress party and would not be joining the BJP, there are still similarities in the circumstances leading to their rebellion against the party.
Both Scindia and Pilot walked through the length and breadth of their States during Assembly elections offering the ‘change’, bringing new vigour, a new face of state leadership. Recent elections have witnessed how a party’s ‘face’ for an election can change public perceptions towards a party and contribute to the eventual outcome of the contest. Both Scindia and Pilot were instrumental in wresting the important States of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan from the tight holds of the BJP. Both were seen as likely candidates for the CM post of their respective states. But soon after winning the Elections, Congress appeared to forget or disregard the change that the public had seen coming with the two new faces and ended up taking it as outcomes of a change in central leadership of Congress. If the Congress on one hand was offering a new, young leadership at the centre in the form of Rahul Gandhi it should have similarly maintained its position with Scindia and Pilot in the two States. But the party appeared to dither as Rahul Gandhi left the decision to appoint the two as CMs to overshadowing influences within the party. If optics were important in politics then Gehlot and Kamal Nath did not go well with public which rejected their party in the 2019 general elections. While Congress received an embarrassing drubbing in Lok Sabha elections the repercussions of that decision continue till date.
While Scindia never joined Kamal Nath as deputy after being denied the CM post and perhaps on being offered a ‘national role’ at the centre he too become anxious after his LS defeat. But Pilot who chose to settle as Deputy CM, perhaps on being promised the CM post sometime in the future, appears to have never comfortably fitted in as Gehlot’s junior. Apart from the recent discord between the two owing to the notices sent by Rajasthan police, both have not been on talking terms ever since their government was formed over a year and half ago. If the Congress thought while overlooking a serious contest for CM’s seat that it could stitch an alliance of two unwilling partners then its key decision makers and advisers to party leadership have now been proven wrong. If there cannot be two leaders of a country then there cannot be two of a State.
One is reminded of how the Congress lost the undivided State of Andhra Pradesh following an ill-advised discord with the next generation of late Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy. The Congress ended up fragmenting in the state with rise of YSR Congress party and also losing Telengana in the process.
If Pilot is not joining the BJP he is likely to form his own party too than face humiliation from Gehlot calling him “nikamma”. If BJP can be blamed for poaching MLAs and toppling governments Congress can be blamed for not keeping its house in order or just the “right order” the public was expecting. With Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi emerging as future leaders in the party it is for Congress to retain young leaders who hold promise.