NEW DELHI: Despite a generational change at the top after Rahul Gandhi became Congress president last year, the old guard continues to assert itself when it comes to choosing leaders for key posts in the party and the government.Veterans like Ashok Gehlot, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kamal Nath, Anand Sharma, Oommen Chandy and Ahmed Patel still hold key party posts, though Rahul, 48, has been gradually injecting fresh blood into the organisation by giving new responsibilities to younger faces.
With the Assembly poll verdict setting off a chief ministerial race in the grand old party, former Rajasthan chief minister Gehlot, who was brought in as AICC general secretary in-charge of organisation to prepare for the Lok Sabha polls, has thrown his hat in the ring, limiting the chances of state unit chief Sachin Pilot, who was tipped to be the new CM.
Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, veteran Kamal Nath is considered to be the front runner in the race for the post of chief minister, much against Rahul’s plan to install a younger Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Recently, Rahul had settled for long-time Sonia Gandhi aide Ahmed Patel as the new AICC treasurer to replace aging Motilal Vora who was not keeping good health.
Azad is the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Sharma now heads the party’s foreign affairs department and Kharge continues to lead the party in the Lok Sabha besides being the in charge of Maharashtra. Former Kerala chief minister Chandy is now in charge of Andhra Pradesh.
Party insiders say the old guard is hard to ignore as it is deeply entrenched into the system and retains its ability to influence decision-making.
However, the entry of youngsters like Scindia as chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Pilot as Rajasthan chief, Gaurav Gogoi as in-charge of West Bengal, Jitendra Singh as in-charge of Odisha, Rajeev Satav as in-charge of Gujarat, K C Venugopal as in-charge of Karnataka and Sushmita Dev as chief of Mahila Congress shows Rahul is pushing the envelope in revamping the grand old party. He has also brought in several younger faces as AICC secretaries who assist the seniors.
“Rahul is trying his best but he can’t make sweeping changes in the party. These issues will be taken care of in the long run. Till then, a mix of youth and experience is the best policy,” a party strategist said.
Professor of political science in JNU Mridula Mukherjee said the continuation of the old guards did not limit Rahul’s efforts to revamp the party as leaders were deployed as per the situation and their ability to carry everyone along.
Noting that youngsters must be given sufficient space and responsibilities, she said a combination of two generations was a normal for any party or company.
Pushing the envelope to infuse young blood
The entry of youngsters like Jyotiraditya Scindia as chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sachin Pilot as Rajasthan Congress chief, Gaurav Gogoi as in-charge of West Bengal, Jitendra Singh as in-charge of Odisha, Rajeev Satav as in-charge of Gujarat, K C Venugopal as in-charge of Karnataka and Sushmita Dev as chief of Mahila Congress shows Congress president Rahul Gandhi is pushing the envelope in revamping the grand old party.