Young wine in old bottles to revive Congress

The only hope is a bunch of young leaders from modest backgrounds who are keeping the Congress flag flying because historically the IYC is the party’s best guerrilla squad.

Published: 30th January 2022 07:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th January 2022 09:15 AM   |  A+A-

Rahul Gandhi at the ‘Parliament Gherao’ protest staged by Indian Youth Congress in New Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi at the ‘Parliament Gherao’ protest staged by Indian Youth Congress in New Delhi. (File photo| Parveen Negi, EPS)

The hot flush of youth and the wisdom of age are two sides of the same coin of history. Political wars declared by the old are fought and won by the young. Since the Congress, the Grand Old Party of the Indian republic, is beset with mediocrity’s maladies, its only source of oxygen is the IYC— Indian Youth Congress. 

As the party’s tired but not retired geriatric generation clings to its faded and fallen pedestals of self importance, the only reason why the Congress stays afloat is the street fighting spirit of the Youth Congress. Selfish septuagenarians are engaged in internecine attacks and counterattacks over inane issues like a vexed veteran receiving a Padma Award from the BJP government, and launching missive missiles seeking democratization of the Gandhi Parivar controlled outfit. So lost are the antique alarmists in the sunset hours of their thwarted ambition, that taking on the Central government is off the table.  

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In Parliament, only a chosen few challenge the Prime Minister’s authority and question the government’s policies. The Congress is floundering. Some netas are leaving it for greener pastures, hypnotised by scraps of allurements. Old is no longer gold in the Congress. It is almost sold. The only hope is a bunch of young leaders from modest backgrounds who are keeping the Congress flag flying because historically the IYC is the party’s best guerrilla squad.

It is not the first time that the IYC is fire fighting forces like the Modi inferno. It has always been the party’s vanguard of political energy, putting life in it and protecting the Gandhis from internal and external shootouts. Its leadership excels in both violent and peaceful protests against the ruling party in various states. In the past two years, the IYC under the leadership of 41-year-old Srinivas Bhadravathi Venkata from Karnataka grabs every opportunity to pummel the BJP and Modi. While the parent organisation has been sleeping at the wheel, Srinivas and team has been crisscrossing the country, demonstrating against a rainbow of issues such as the price rice, unemployment, high petroleum prices, victimisation of farmers, illegal snooping, lathi charges on students in Patna and the sale of PSUs to private entities. 

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There is a method in the shrewdness of its carefully curated agitations. Its quarries are only the PM or his welfare and development schemes. For example, the sarkar’s Bharat Bachao Andolan, Soch ki Soch se Ladai, Aadhi Abaadi Pura Haq, Samvidhan Bachao, Nafrat Chhodo are the IYC’s favourite slogans. It accuses Modi and Amit Shah of demolishing democratic institutions. With the irreverence of youth, young Congress warriors celebrated Modi’s 70th birthday as National Unemployment Day (Rashtriya Berozgar Diwas) — its answer to BJP’s week-long celebrations ‘Seva Saptah’.

After social media responded to Modi thunderously, the IYC unleashed an equally aggressive campaign which trended the whole day. Previously when Nirmala Sitharaman announced the National Monetisation Pipeline, Srinivas’ soldiers had held the counter demonstration “National Mitigation Scheme” that mocked the government for depriving the poor of productive employment while giving away public assets to friends of the government.  The IYC’s vector is not just agitational politics. During both Covid waves, its volunteers worked 24/7 to help patients all over India. Srinivas was personally providing medicines, oxygen cylinders and even ambulances for the poor patients.

IYC is the Praetorian guard of the Gandhi imperium. All through 70 years of its political life, its commanders have been personally groomed by the family. Indira Gandhi established the Youth Congress as her gladiatorial arm. After facing the wrath of the old grandmasters in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, she weaponised the Youth Congress to pulverise her rivals. Its first elected president was Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi who gave the Naxalites a bloody nose in West Bengal. During the seventies, Sanjay Gandhi took charge of the Youth Congress, appointed Ambika Soni as its president during the Emergency and deployed its foot soldiers to implement his five-point programme, including tree plantation and family welfare.

When the Congress lost in 1977, Sanjay turned to his trusted tartars Kamal Nath, Jagdish Tytler etc to launch massive rallies against the Janata government. Sanjay’s IYC was responsible for escalating a popular movement against the Morarji Desai government. They split the Janata Party by exploiting petty rivalries within. During the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, over 30 percent of Youth Congress leaders entered the Lok Sabha. 

With Sanjay’s tragic death, Indira inducted Rajiv into the party and gave him charge of the Youth Congress. Loyal leaders like Ghulam Nabi, Azad, Anand Sharma, Tariq Anwar etc became IYC chiefs. After Rajiv’s assassination, the Youth Congress was almost orphaned until Sonia took over as the AICC president in 1998. Since she was surrounded by old warhorses, IYC remained a non-priority until Rahul Gandhi took the poll plunge in 2004.

With Congress ruling in the Centre and Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, the Gandhis ran IYC as a parallel power centre. Rahul was the general secretary in-charge of the Youth Congress. Subsequently, he appointed personal loyalists like Randeep Singh Surjewala, Rajeev Satav, Ashok Tanwar and Srinivas as IYC presidents. He also brought professionals and technocrats into the organization to marshal an effective ideological and technological push. 

IYC is active on all social media platforms. Rahul has appointed Krishna Allavaru, a law graduate from Georgetown University and Delhi University activist, as the IYC’s only Joint Secretary. His importance can be judged from the description of his role on the IYC’s official website—“He spearheads the organization in all the fronts, be it in taking on the government on any issue or making outreach programmes in different parts of the country. Allavaru lends his logical brain to IYC and points out the lacunae in the policies adopted by Modi Government. He shares the responsibility of drawing the roadmaps of the organisation.” 

The Youth Congress has been instructed to abandon all fear of the government. Rahul has thrown down the gauntlet, saying anyone who is afraid of Modi Sarkar have no say or stake in the Congress. According to his admirers, the Youth Congress is once again the grooming ground for youngsters from socially, economically and politically deprived sections of society. While old Congressmen may be ditching the Gandhis, the party’s youth is enamoured with them. 

Like his father, uncle and grandmother, Rahul hopes to ride the storm by using youth power to stay in control of the Congress. The Gandhis have disconnected with the past hoping that the future would ensure that the Congress without them is a cipher. Rahul hopes that dynastic antibodies racing in the Youth Congress’ veins will neutralise the pandemic of defects and disappointments that have denied him the crown of Indraprastha. The raison d’être of public life is power, and there is no better source for the Gandhis to drink its sweet promise than the fountain of youth.


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