File photo | Congress president Rahul Gandhi and former president Sonia Gandhi at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, in New Delhi | PTI
File photo | Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi at a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, in New Delhi, 2019 | Photo: PTI
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The now predictable, and frankly boring, battle between the Congress’ ‘old guard’ and ‘new guard’ has appeared once again. It’s an oft-repeated aspect about the Congress that its main leaders such as Digvijaya Singh, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Rajiv Satav and K.C. Venugopal among others are always locked in a battle. It’s a false, misleading and simplistic construct. Unfortunately for the Congress, this isn’t an old-versus-new guard issue — it is about one failed guard versus another.

But it isn’t just the fault of the leaders from the older generation that the Congress is an absolute and undeniable mess right now. The ‘young guard’ has done more than its bit to ensure that too.

If it was just about the younger lot of the party vying for space with the older leaders and yearning for a generational shift, it wouldn’t be as bad a crisis for the Congress. After all, at some point, the seniors will have to pave the way. But what makes it a free fall for the party is that it seems to have no rescue mission in sight — all its camps are busy fighting, proving themselves to be as useless as one another.

Last week, at a meeting convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Satav — known to be close to Rahul Gandhi and identified as part of the ‘young guard’ — took on his senior colleagues when he asked the UPA-2 era ministers to introspect why the party was reduced to a mere 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

This came in response to former Union Ministers Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram calling for introspection on the 2019 Lok Sabha election defeat. Satav, however, later did a quick U-turn in true Congress style, and termed UPA-2 as a “people’s government”.

Knives, scratch that, swords may be out in the Congress once again, but truth be told, both sides are right, and yet, both are wrong.


Also read: Congress can remind voters it knows how to rule. But Rahul Gandhi must own UPA success first


The older, failed lot

It wasn’t an easy task for the Congress to defend itself in 2014. There is no polite way to say this — the Manmohan Singh government in its second term was an unmitigated disaster.

From numerous allegations of scams and corruption to policy paralysis, a failing economy, constant intra-government tussles, arrogant ministers, terrible perception management and the impression of two power centres in the form of the Prime Minister’s Office (led by Manmohan Singh) and 10 Janpath (under Sonia Gandhi) — everything that could go wrong with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in its second avatar, did.

UPA-1, on the other hand, brought in path-breaking and electorally useful initiatives (like them or not), including the rural job guarantee scheme and the Right to Information (RTI) Act. It also showed courage to stand up to the bullying Left Front and sign the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement. UPA-2, however, ended up undoing all the gains of the earlier term.

Rajiv Satav, therefore, isn’t entirely wrong. His seniors failed the Congress. It is, after all, no mean feat to bring down a party to its most humiliating seat tally ever. The likes of Chidambaram and Sibal, who called for introspection on the 2019 loss, as well as those like Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor, who joined the ranks later, should look within to know how the Congress’ free fall was precipitated by the very government they were stakeholders in.

And it’s not like this ‘old guard’ is giving up even now. Churlish and foolish in their approach, the senior leaders continue to lock horns with their juniors in the most juvenile ways. Not to forget the brazen power games that leaders such as Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh in Madhya Pradesh and Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan have played.

What is it that today’s young Congress leaders can show to the people as claims of UPA’s achievements? What is it that they can build upon? At the same time, significant energy is lost in trying to distract from the mishap that UPA-2 was.

But there is a reason why Satav is wrong, and his seniors right too.


Also read: Congress leaders jump to Manmohan Singh’s defence after young colleagues question UPA II


The younger, equally failed lot

The year 2014 may have been out of the Congress’ control. In trying to hide from the failures of the outgoing dispensation and fight a rising, powerful Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the young Congress leaders had little chance.

But did the younger lot do anything in the five years to give the Congress any fighting chance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election? No. The party’s tally went up to an equally embarrassing 52, and Rahul Gandhi as well as his coterie reaffirmed their positions in the meme world.

The younger leaders have either been busy fighting turf wars, sulking, allowing ambition to overtake long-term vision, or simply distancing themselves from everyday, grassroots politics. Leading charge of the young brigade is Rahul Gandhi, who has established himself as a disconnected, entitled, and an unsuitable politician.

If even an iota of work in the right direction had been done by Satav and company, 2019 would have been less of a humiliation for the Congress. Narendra Modi would have won, yes. But the Congress wouldn’t have cut such a sorry picture yet again.


Also read: Congress’ 1970-style treatment of young leaders won’t work. It can learn from BJP


Little signs of revival

The last one year of Modi 2.0 has barely been any better for the Congress, with its junior lot doing precious little to get its act together. Most of the leaders, whether from political dynasties or not, are much like their seniors — entitled, self-righteous, and unable to grasp the altered political dynamics in ‘New India’.

The Congress has been busy fighting the Congress for the last several years. But it has couched this battle as one between a restless young generation and an older one unwilling to let go.

The truth, however, is that every camp fighting in the party is a failure in one way or another. Young or old, all its leaders have failed the Congress. India’s oldest political party should feel sorry, very sorry for itself, because in the battles that are played within its fold, there are only losers.

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13 Comments Share Your Views

13 COMMENTS

  1. In keeping with Congress tradition, the so called Young Turk, Shri Rajiv Satav, is himself very much a dynast. His mother was a minister in Maharashtra when Congress was in power. Shri Himanta Biswal said this a long time ago – Shri Rahul Gandhi is most comfortable in the company of fellow dynasts. The reason is quite obvious. He feels less insecure as fellow dynasts cannot pull out the meritocracy card on him.

  2. Congress had laid the foundation of India and has the ability to make it stronger. Congress is liberal, enlightened and secular as compared to BJP which follows RSS agenda. The present government has sore relations with the neighbors due to its arrogance. Revoking 370 has increased the misery of Kashmiris. On the other hand Congress can reverse the situation and can make India a progressive and moderate state once again.

  3. Who cares? This corrupt, defunct & decrepit organisation exists for the sole benefit of the crooked family & hanger-on’s with vested interests. After all Pappu needs a job doesn’t he? Even that was fine, at least he is a barrel of laughs.
    But…..
    The events of the past 6 years show that this gang is also in bed with China & Pakistan. Now that is a clear danger to India.

  4. The Congress is waiting for anti incumbency to catch up with the government. At the moment, it has nothing else to offer.

  5. The young and old alike emptied the coffers till nothing was felt. The political system has a mechanism for change the power transfer took place. But within the party there being none, the party became poor and party men rich. The struggle is to get back to milking the cow. Rest is all BS

  6. A very basic cause for all this, helped by his sycophants’ applause, is Rahul’s totally misplaced belief that ridiculing. mocking and reviling Modi with cheap, inane acronyms and childish catch phrases , is enough to make Modi lose and for the BJP to completely vanish. Only when Rahul opens his eyes and ears to reality can Congress even hope to come out of this deep hole they have dug up for themselves. But that does not seem likely, ever.

  7. UPA II was a failure because of one cardinal mistake by Dr Manmohan Singh, for whom I have great admiration. Prime Minister Singh should have been the real Prime Minister. He should have dismissed the corrupt DMK minister peremptorily, got him arrested and charge sheeted him with lightening speed. No doubt the UPA II’s survival was largely dependent upon the support of its DMK partner – and also because of the backing of Madam Sonia who was pulling the strings from behind. Had DR Singh acted with lightening speed and let loose agencies like CBI, ED and IT, DMK would have been shell shocked because there were so many skeletons in their cupboards and they would have played rearguard action to save their skin – and would have stayed in the cabinet, distancing themselves from that Corrupt minister. Madam Sonia would have no choice than to sail with Dr Singh, even as she was smoldering volcano deep inside her heart, Dr Singh’s popularity, in the meantime, would have sored very high with the people -especially in the North. It assumed a very great significance because the overwhelming perception of the northerners was that this “madrasi saala” had looted 1.6 lakh crores. Parallelly, Dr Singh should have used his position to silence the then CAG ( One of the earlier PMs, known for her draconian action in the mid 70s showed the ways – or the Prime Minister with 56 inch chest, who reportedly uses the Levers of power to put the critics in their place ). But Dr Singh was and is not a conventional politician molded in the hum drum of rough and tough political ecosystem. He is a gentlemen-politician, intellectual-politician, honest politician, catapulted to position of authority by the needs of the time. And therefore, he played the game according to conventional books – and in real politics, the politician who occupies the high-rise chair must create his own book to out-beat his opponents. He did not do it alas. Regards, ak pattabiraman, Chennai

  8. There is no use over flogging the dead horse. (Congress ). Every living organism dies, so die the individuals grouping themselves as one entity . This is eternal law of nature. Don t lament. You are witness to that dying pangs. Death of Congress will give rise to a new political outfit which will be a bit more advanced version of itself. After all BJP is not an entity which will have life till eternity. After completing its historical role assigned to it by historical forces and circumstances , It will have to be replaced with a new political party . This the way the history moves on . Mughals have gone, Britishers have gone, Nehruvian have Gone. Long live India ! !

  9. Not sure why so much article space is given to a party which is not even a national party anymore but more of a family party now. Congress is done deal, move on. Its New India now.

  10. The battle is between idea of Bharat vs idea of India.

    A secular Bharat vs appeasement India.

    Bharat whose foundation was laid by Bharat vs the nation India which came into being in 1947.

    Bharat whose pillars are Ram, Krishna, Ashoka, Dahir, Panini, Sushrat, Aryabhat, Kalidas, Tulsidas, Sardar Patel, Netaji, Babasaheb Ambedkar vs India whose world revolves around Gandhi, Nehru, Gandhi, Gandhi, Gandhi.

    Bharat which is a home for persecuted parsis, Jews vs India which is built upon persecution of Hindus at Mooplah, 21 lakh of Hindus and Sikhs during partition, direct action in Bengal, Kashmiri Hindu genocide.

    Bharat whose heroes stood for dharma vs India whose heroes qasim, ghouri, ghazni, Taimur, Babur, Aurangzeb, British Raj, Indian Arabs are plunderer, murderer, rapist so much so that roads cities are named after that.

    This is the difference between bhartiya’s Bharat vs Congress India.

  11. Getting to be rated the worst affected country in Corona Virus, Chinese are still on our side of LAC, economy is deep in trouble and no rescue plan in sight and the Print is rediscovering Rahul Gandhi and Congress failures. Get up man, do some responsible journalism – starting from Sekhar Gupta and downwards.

  12. Poohi is a CONGRASS journalist. Since her publication is a virtual adda of journalists trying to revive congrass. Let’s give them a reality check.
    1) Congrass policy of divide Hindus and rule is not working as HINDUS are now aware that they have been denied their history and want to reclaim what 800 years of Islamic extremist rulers and Christian strong arm proselytizers and congrass rule denied them.

    2) Hindus DON’T believe in conversion but will not accept proselytizers with fake propaganda to promote religious conversions.

    3) Hindus believe in education and science and would like to take everbody along.

    4) All the fake narrative with help of undereducated jhollawallas and rent a journalist a CONGRASS way of spreading communal and CASTIEST rhetoric is over. As social media can question this fakery immediately.

    5) So an appeal to POOHI now please join congrass instead of wasting your energies posing as a journalist.

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