South Asian Insider
Rahul Gandhi's Big Failure Was to Not Promote Fresh Faces in the Congress
(SAI Bureau) : In an informal discussion with Arun Oraon, All India Congress Committee secretary in charge of Chhattisgarh, I suggested that Congress should give Lok Sabha tickets to entirely new faces, with no background rooted in sycophantic family loyalty. Choose people from all walks of life who command respect, are young, liberal and can walk the distance with the party in the years ahead even if they lose just now.
I also asked, rhetorically, why the Congress always gives tickets to family retainers or their lap dogs? A former IPS officer, he fidgeted a little and regained composure and smiled: You write about it.
In contrast: Intelligence reports reached the Prime Minister's Office on why the Bharatiya Janata Party did so badly in the Chhattisgarh assembly elections. The PMO insisted on finding out how this report had been so accurate and what the remedy was. The suggestion that filtered through was that the BJP should change all its candidates as the anti-incumbency was against local leaders and not the party.
The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah leadership changed all 11 - ten of them sitting - candidates in one stroke. The new contestants were all third-rung leaders, who replaced the second and first in due course. By 2023, when the next assembly elections come around, some will have matured in their own right, while the second rung will have risen to the challenge or fallen by the way-side, making way for the new.
Rahul is now a three-term MP and we are still talking about his coming of age, maturing and taking responsibility. He is the president of India's oldest political party and has seen ten straight years in power which his mother manoeuvred. His father became a prime minister at 42, but he is 49, received the leadership on a platter and is still maturing.
By all accounts he is not a born leader, and nor is the Congress a political party. He inherited his mantle and Congress is family property. In his case - just as in the case of Akhilesh, Tejaswi, Jagan, Stalin, Mehbooba, etc. - he received a transfer of property. His first duty was to establish control within, rather than seek expansion outside. Where the rest of them seem to have succeeded, he is still struggling with his property.
This election was about choosing or rejecting the prime minister. By the end, it had become a one-horse race. Rahul had the best chance to rid himself of all the dead wood as soon as he became president. Instead he chose to go with Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, P. Chidambaram and the same old tired faces - Motilal Vora, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kapil Sibal and Sam "Hua Hua" Pitroda.
He had a choice to promote Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, R.P.N. Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Ajoy Singh, Arun Oraon and Vivek Tankha directly into the Congress Working Committee. The useful amongst the older generation could have been assigned new work or simply a retirement scheme with tickets for their progeny.
When he won a few states, that was the time to assert his authority. He lost it by not promoting Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh respectively. In fact he showed such lack of strength that his personal choice - Tamradhwaj Sahu - could not become the chief minister in the cleanly swept Chhattisgarh.
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