An intensive power struggle is going on between the old guard and the young Turks in the Congress even as the party is struggling with an unprecedented leadership crisis after a humiliating defeat in the recent Lok Sabha polls. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has plunged the party into a further crisis by resigning and sticking to his decision so far. The younger leaders feel that Rahul Gandhi’s hands need to be strengthened to purge the old guard to restructure the party. However, the latter argues that Gandhi had led the party’s campaign from the front and most of the decisions were his. They are unwilling to take responsibility for the debacle despite media statements from Rahul like, “I cannot ask others to resign too. It is up to them if they want to take responsibility“. Interestingly, after the drubbing, while Rahul Gandhi blamed the senior leaders for not supporting his campaign, the AICC General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra blamed the workers for the debacle. So the blame game goes on. The younger leaders have now seized the opportunity to demand removal of incompetent old guard. To force their hands, over 140 of them have resigned en masse last week with more resignations in the pipeline. They include a general secretary, six national secretaries and two state working presidents. The resignations were ostensibly to give a free hand to Rahul Gandhi to restructure the party. The resignation drive was startedlast week by the young Congress leadership, including Pratap Singh Bajwa, vice chairman of AICC foreign affairs department, Vivek Tankha, in charge of the party’s law department, Tarun Kumar, secretary in charge of Rajasthan and Deepak Singh, Congress Legislature Party leader in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council. Their main demand is that the present Congress Working Committee (CWC) must be disbanded and that the Pradesh Congress Committee Presidents of the 17 States where the party failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat should step down. They also hope that the mass resignations would convince Rahul to take back his resignation. All these at a time when the party chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala is claiming,
Rahul Gandhi was, is, and will remain the Congress president”. In a counter move, the old guard, not willing to give up its hold on the party has floated the names of three senior party loyalists as the new party president if Rahul isn determined to quit. They are former Union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, former Congress party leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan
chief minister Ashok Gehlot. All three of them would vacate the seat whenever the family wants to take back the chair. Shinde seems to have an edge over the others. It is clear that the family will not give up its hold on the party easily with three Gandhis at the top level. The Congress is certainly going through a rough patch but the leadership problem is something that should be resolved soon. The morale of the workers is low, as the Congress has suffered two successive disastrous election defeats. Rahul Gandhi is technically in charge as the CWC has rejected his resignation. Rahul has thoughtlessly plunged the party into this chaos without an alternative leadership in place. Even many senior leaders have no clue whether Rahul will remain or go. The party is directionless, clueless and leaderless. As a result, factional fights have broken out in
several states including Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. At the national headquarters the tussle between the old guard and the young Turks has broken out. In
Telangana and Maharashtra, the Congress is facing erosion. The Congress- ruled Karnataka,
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh state governments look precarious. So the first priority is to decide the leadership issue, as it is almost a month since Rahul offered to quit. If he insists on quitting, the party should quickly look for someone to replace him. There was even
talk of a collegium to run the party while Rahul goes on a countrywide padayatra. There is urgency because of the Assembly elections are due in some states like Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand soon. Secondly, there is need for a thorough overhaul of the organization at all levels and the Congress Working Committee has already authorized Rahul Gandhito address this. People with mass base should be made in charge of the election bound states. Thirdly, the communication strategy of the party needs to be improved vastly. Fourthly, the party should also improve its social engineering and alliance strategy. Where the Congress is in a position
to give a direct fight to the BJP, local leadership should be encouraged. Above all the
Congress should introspect and take corrective steps as soon as possible. In a democracy, there is need for an effective opposition and the Congress being the main national party should lead the opposition in Parliament and outside. Restoration of the party’s health is very important for the Grand Old Party’s survival.

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