New Delhi: The possibility of a potential split threatens the Congress after speculation that Rahul Gandhi could return to lead the party. A debate is currently raging within the party and leaders are now discussing ways to rid the Congress of its “dynasty tag”. A host of young Congress leaders are also convinced that if Rahul Gandhi leads it in the 2024 general election, it would only spell another electoral washout as he “is no match” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a one-to-one contest. Several leaders have come out and suggested measures for the Congress to find its rhythm back but “inaction at all levels” have left young leaders and party workers disheartened.
Earlier this week, former MP Sandeep Dikshit had said there were many in the Congress who are capable of leading the party — “at least six to eight” such people — and attacked senior leaders for saying “sometimes you want inaction because you don’t want a certain action to happen”. Many young leaders feel that Mr Gandhi is surrounded by “unelectable leaders who want him back because that’s how they can be in power”. Party leaders who have either lost the elections or have not fought the polls or are hankering for a Rajya Sabha nomination are floating the name of Mr Gandhi to keep themselves relevant, sources say. Sanjay Nirupam, former Mumbai Congress chief, who was sulking during the elections, vehemently wants Mr Gandhi back as party chief. The situation is so bad, the sources say, that several state leaders have started looking for other options. A leader who sought anonymity said:
“Now the time is not ripe for Mr Gandhi to take over. It would be better that they take a backseat and a new face emerges, who can lead the party and take on the BJP with a new narrative.”
He added that if Mr Gandhi wanted to return, why did he leave the post in such a hurry when the entire Congress wanted him to continue. Even when he holds no position in the party, his views are mostly against what the party is doing. Insiders claim he was against the post-poll alliance in Maharashtra with the Shiv Sena. Also, during the Haryana Assembly polls in October, his protégé Ashok Tanwar, who was removed as Haryana unit chief and eventually resigned, was creating trouble for the party. Many leaders claimed after the 2019 Lok Sabha debacle several candidates in the Assembly elections are not keen for Mr Gandhi to campaign in their constituencies.
The other grievance many state leaders have is that Mr Gandhi’s office is full of “left-leaning NGO people with little ground-level experience”. Earlier former Congress leaders Jagdambika Pal and Hemanta Biswa Sarma (both now with the BJP) had claimed that it was impossible to penetrate Mr Gandhi’s office for an appointment, and even when one was given, the feedback given to Mr Gandhi was “against the grassroots leaders”.
After Mr Gandhi left the party presidency and his mother Sonia Gandhi took charge, there have four Assembly polls — Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Delhi. The Congress is in power in two states, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, and has substantially increased its tally in Haryana. It is also being argued that the party won three states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — in 2018 only because of strong state leaders and not for Rahul Gandhi. The pressure within the party is at an all-time high as the future of many leaders is at stake.