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Congress gears up for presidium as Rahul Gandhi targets old guard

New Delhi, June 1, 2019-

The fallout from the Congress party’s second consecutive general election rout is coinciding with Rahul Gandhi’s obstinacy about not withdrawing his resignation to give shape to a presidium-like apparatus that could lead the party from now on.

Sources in the Congress have indicated that the crisis has thrown up several suggestions on the future leadership structure in the party. The one that has got the most tickmarks relates to the presidium.

In continuing discussions on the issue, the sources said there could be three working presidents, one each from north, east and south India. There could even be a fourth working president, from western India.

As part of the preparations to instal the new leadership, Rahul Gandhi has called the party’s Young Turks to Delhi for consultations. These are leaders he associates with, the ones close to him.

This comes against the backdrop of an open war between the Congress old guard and Rahul Gandhi’s handpicked generals. The old guard, which is accused of being status quoist and entitlement seeking, believes that the Congress party is their turf.

The Young Turks are convinced that the Congress party of old has to metamorphose into something more agile, action-oriented and in tune with the times to take on an all-conquering Bharatiya Janata Party by presenting a rival discourse.

Rajasthan Congress party chief and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is already in the capital. The sources said that he is a certainty as one of the working presidents if the presidium-like apparatus is finally put in place.

Jyotiraditya Scindia is also said to be a candidate. However, he could have scuppered his own chances having lost the election to the Guna Lok Sabha seat. His mentors are aware that in an era of searing political competitiveness that acknowledges only winners, someone who has lost an election cannot be so quickly elevated to the top party position.

Among the other names being suggested for working president is K.C. Venugopal. Milind Deora is also in contention, the sources said.

Adjustments are also likely to be made keeping caste combinations in mind. Which means that Brahmins — in caste-conscious Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, for instance, the Congress is mainly seen as an upper caste party — and ‘banias’ could find a place in the new setup on the basis of their caste.

The old guard, naturally, is resisting the changes aware that should the new leadership structure take root, they would be pushed out into the cold.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi is adamant that the old guard must not take pole position in the party. He also wants them to be out of key positions in the states as he insists that the party needs an overhaul. He could be speaking from experience — his own elevation as party president took a while, as the old guard dug its heels in during Sonia Gandhi’s presidentship and refused to let go.

The Congress president is also determined that his family should distance itself from the party leadership — a move also opposed by the old guard because it hinges its own fortunes with the Gandhis.

One of the tasks before the new presidium will be to find ways to lift the party of its present situation. But, in the new fit, dynasty will not be a solution. For Rahul Gandhi, that means going beyond his own family to include other dynasts within the Congress.

A special pain point for the Congress is said to be Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The party president had named him among other chief ministers for not working hard enough in their states. These were also chief ministers who had fielded their sons to the dislike of the party high command.

Sources said that there is a possibility that Gehlot might have to pay a price for fielding his son from Jodhpur — he lost the election — spending time campaigning for him when he should have campaigned for the party across the state. If it happens it would mark the beginning of the purge of the old guard.  (Agency)

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