The exit of two high-profile young leaders from the Congress in quick succession has triggered a debate within the grand old party and its style of functioning. Several insiders have pointed out that Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia — both had a fallout with the party over differences with their senior contemporaries — had demanded a resolution from the party high command, the Gandhi family, but nothing satisfactory came through. While Jyotiraditya Scindia went on to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, resulting in the fall of the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh, Sachin Pilot revolted against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and appears to be going the MP way.
While the Congress has put up through both these episodes with a straight face, the sacking of Sachin Pilot has led to some Congress leaders to openly questioning the ability and decision-making of central leadership which has let two of its young and dynamic leaders go in quick succession. Both the leaders who were considered close to Rahul Gandhi and were potential challengers to the old guard which has been arguably taking the party downhill.
On Tuesday, Congress sacked Sachin Pilot for allegedly colluding with the BJP to topple the state government headed by Ashok Gehlot. The move once again reinforced the belief that the Congress was rewarding loyalist Gehlot over who many see as a deserving Sachin Pilot who is credited with bringing the Congress back to power in 2018.
Voices within the Congress have begun to come out in support of Sachin Pilot — and many feel that it is about time that some of them could follow Scindia and Pilot. First to react to the exit of Sachin Pilot was Shashi Tharoor who said that he was sad to see the former deputy chief minister leave the Congress. Tharoor said that he considered Pilot one of their best and brightest, and wished it had not come to this. He, however, said that Pilot should not have parted ways and instead joined the effort to make the party a better and more effective instrument for his dreams.
A sharper attack on the central leadership came from former Congress MP Priya Dutta. She said that it was unfortunate that the Congress had lost two stalwart young leaders — Scindia and Pilot — with great potential. She further said that she did not believe being ambitious was wrong, a charge that now some party leaders have been leveling against Pilot. While announcing the decision to sack Sachin, Randeep Singh Surjewala said that Congress had given a lot to Pilot.
“Pilot was made an MP when he was 26, he was minister at 32, he was Rajasthan Congress President at 36 and Deputy CM at just 40,” Surjewala said on Tuesday. Since then, a number of leaders have repeated the same arguments. However, Dutt seems to disagree with these readings when she says that Sachin and Scindia had worked hard through the most difficult times, suggesting they earned their place in Congress.
Priya Dutt later said that the “Congress was, is and always will be”. “It is the aspirations of the young and restless that need to be directed and used well for the benefit of the party. The party must introspect to understand what’s creating this internal revolt,” the Congress leader added.
Echoing similar sentiments, another Congress leader, Jitin Prasada, said that no one can take away the fact that all these years Sachin Pilot had worked with dedication for the party. “Sincerely hope the situation can still be salvaged. Sad it has come to this…,” he wrote on Twitter.
Joining the league, Congress leader from Haryana Kuldeep Bishnoi said that the exit of Sachin will deal a severe blow to his party. He was also in favour of promoting young faces with mass appeal. He had made a similar comment when Scindia quit the Congress. After Scindia’s departure, Bishnoi had said that there were many devoted leaders across the country who felt “alienated, wasted and discontented”.
The differences among the leaders are clearly visible in Congress. Sanjay Jha, former Congress spokesperson who is now suspended from the party for anti-party activities, has hinted that many more leaders could leave the grand old party. In a tweet on Tuesday, he said: “First, Jyotiraditya Scindia. Now, Sachin Pilot. Who next? Watch this space!”
Both Sachin and Gehlot were not at ease with each other ever since the party came back to power in 2018. Many believe that it was Sachin who deserved the chief ministerial post but Gehlot outmanoeuvred him by getting more MLAs in his support for the top post. Then Congress chief Rahul Gandhi went ahead with Gehlot, in an attempt to keep his flock together ahead of general elections later in 2019. But differences widened over time as Gehlot started consolidating his position by placing his people at important places in government and outside.
This Sunday, Scindia said that Sachin was sidelined and persecuted by Ashok Gehlot. “Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the Congress,” he said.