Not only Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia, but many Congress leaders became MPs, MLAs and even ministers when they were between 26-32 years old. Then after some time, they started feeling ‘sidelined’ and became rebels. The Congress is to be partly blamed that it could not instil a sense of kinship in them or pay attention to their hard work. At least, these are the allegations, and to an extent, they are justifiable too. But every story has another side to it and this one is no exception.
In the years that many young leaders with political ambitions across India spend waving party flags, trying to make a name for themselves in various student and youth organisations, leaders such as Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia were sitting in Parliament and holding ministerial positions. Of course, they had been elected by the people but everyone knows that their surname and party name had more to do with their victories. The Congress may be going through its worst phase in its political history but it is important to understand the circumstances that led to these leaders’ shift from being ‘privileged’ to turning into a ‘rebel’.
The privileged few
If the Gandhi family of the Congress is targeted for ‘dynasty’, then it is also important to see the background of these leaders who turned rebel. And then compare their struggles with that of a common leader. Be it Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot or Milind Deora – they all got party tickets within the first couple of years of joining politics, top posts in the party organisation, and the promise of a ministerial berth if the party comes to power. Travelling in luxurious cars, receiving salutes from people older to them, being the ‘apple of the eye’ of a large section of Lutyens media – if this is not being privileged then what is? Not every young person entering politics is fortunate to have a dream career like this.
Sachin Pilot may be more deserving than other Congress rebels. He toiled and reinvigorated the Congress organisation after becoming the party’s Rajasthan president in 2014. One faction of the Congress demanded that Sachin be made chief minister after the party’s victory in the 2018 Rajasthan assembly election but Pilot agreed to the post of Deputy CM and those demands were put on the back burner. If Ashok Gehlot was picked over Sachin Pilot, then there was a reason behind it.
Sure, three-time CM Gehlot does not have the popularity in social and news media that Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia enjoy, but Gehlot’s grip on the ground is still very strong – which becomes clear on visiting Rajasthan. Ashok Gehlot is not a good speaker but he is a master of grassroots politics. He knows all the tricks of the trade and he has garnered tremendous experience in his journey from being an ordinary worker to becoming the CM of Rajasthan. Even today, more than two-thirds of Congress MLAs stand with Gehlot.
As for ‘Maharaj’, it remains to be seen whether Jyotiraditya Scindia will be able to establish the same political stature in the BJP that he had in the Congress. Soon after Scindia’s entry into the BJP, he was labelled ‘Vibhishan’ by Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The usually ‘aggressive’ Scindia listened on, sitting on the stage with a grim smile, but what choice did he have? He could not save his seat Guna in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, but now he has to use the moniker of ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ to show his political relevance. Such statements are indicative of how the politics has changed.
The loss of the rebels
So, what does the future hold for Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia or any ‘rebel’ leader who enjoyed quick, somewhat readymade success, when compared to young leaders with hopes of making it big in Indian politics? Pilot (if he goes to the BJP, which he has denied) or Scindia may have the means to topple the Congress governments, but will they have the same status they had in the Congress? Not just in terms of holding important posts in the party but the stronghold among workers and the popularity in the media?
Will all that stay intact in the BJP, where it is impossible to engage in any rhetoric against Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s will? These ‘young rebels’ would be easily photographed with the Congress’ high command, a sign of their reach, but they will have to settle with second-rung leaders in the BJP because they will rarely be photographed with Modi and Shah. Will the BJP be able to give them as many promotions in a span of few years as the Congress did? The BJP understands very well how to leverage this. When someone is volunteering to be used, why should it give them any more attention than is necessary?
On leaving the Congress president’s post, Rahul Gandhi had written a letter, in which he took responsibility for the party’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Congress workers may have read this letter, but Rahul Gandhi’s closest aides, who have now become rebels, perhaps never did.
This is not to say that the entire fault is of young ‘rebel’ leaders such as Pilot and Scindia. The Congress high command is responsible, too, for not training them well and for the communication gap that exists among the various sections of the party organisation. However, political ambitions are more important than political training or communication, and these young rebels are not lacking in ambition.
It is not wrong to be ambitious, but history has shown that those who have worked hard and remained patient have become more successful in politics, whether one looks at the BJP or the Congress. It would be better if Sachin Pilot forms his own party and goes on the path taken by Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar. He is certainly more capable than other possible rebels in the Congress. But if he also goes the Scindia way, then there is no denying that while the Congress may be the losing party, these young leaders will lose a lot too. For them, it will be ‘short-term gain, long-term loss’.
Views are personal.