Congress veterans suspect attempt to discredit them
The Congress is staring at an internal conflict as a large number of senior leaders suspect a deliberate ploy to humiliate and sideline them at a time the party needs unity and consolidation to fight the Narendra Modi regime.
Most senior leaders have viewed the attitude of the general secretary in charge of organisation, K.C. Venugopal, and former Youth Congress president and Gujarat in-charge Rajiv Satav at Thursday’s meeting called by Sonia Gandhi as a “planned assault” on the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government intended at demoralising the veterans ahead of impending organisational restructuring.
The turmoil appears so intense that immature handling could inflict debilitating damage on the party.
The differences have acquired unusual bitterness and are bound to delay the organisational reshuffle and Rahul Gandhi’s return as party president.
The majority of leaders believe Rahul will have to step forward and sort out the issues instead of running the show from behind. Sources said the pent-up feelings otherwise may erupt any day and plunge the party in a grave crisis.
Thursday’s meeting of Rajya Sabha MPs called by Sonia to discuss the political situation in the context of the government’s failures in managing Covid-19 and Chinese intrusions has exacerbated the generational conflict within the party.
The avoidable twist of dragging the Manmohan Singh government into the power game within the Congress has provided the seniors a legitimate grudge as nobody in the party can justify rubbishing its own legacy that is anyway under attack from the ruling BJP.
Former information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari’s tweet gave an indication of the churn within. Attaching a report that explained how Satav asked the veterans to introspect about the Congress decline during UPA-II, Tewari tweeted: “1. Was UPA responsible for decline in fortunes of the Congress in 2014 is a valid question — must be gone into? 2. Equally valid is — was UPA sabotaged from within? 3. 2019 defeat must also be analysed. 4. No charge against UPA has stood the test of law — six years on.”
Tewari, who is considered a young leader and who was part of the much maligned UPA-II government, seems to be making several incisive points in the tweet.
While a part of the tweet could be putting Rahul’s team in the dock by asking for a post-mortem of the party’s defeat in the 2019 parliamentary election, it could also be pointing fingers at the same forces by referring to the internal sabotage in 2014. Then he defended the UPA regime by pointing to the malicious propaganda on corruption that could not stand legal scrutiny.
Another former UPA minister told The Telegraph: “After seeing Modi’s six years — on all fronts — is it wise for a Congressman to condemn the Manmohan Singh government? There was a core committee meeting every week, reflecting the perfect understanding between Sonia and Manmohan. These boys are throwing mud on Sonia’s image as well, unmindful of the fact that multiple pieces of revolutionary rights-based legislation came under the UPA, apart from being the best phase in terms of economic growth.”
The former minister added: “When P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal are explaining how Modi’s abysmal failures are not being fully exploited, Venugopal counters them by talking about digital campaigns and Rahul Gandhi’s performance. Did anybody deny Rahul was active but does that mean the Congress strengthened the organisational machinery and the support base? The crisis is so deep and disturbing, particularly the Chinese intrusion and the state of the economy, that Modi should have been delegitimised by now. We can’t fool ourselves by ripples on Twitter.”
Another leader, conceding that an open war hasn’t been triggered because of seniors’ commitment to Sonia’s leadership, said: “What if we hit back openly? The seniors include people who worked with Indira Gandhi and many with Rajiv Gandhi. They built the party with their blood and toil for 40-50 years.
“The young have neither shown that kind of commitment, nor talent. Two most precious young leaders have gone to the BJP and three to four are in doubtful category. We are not going anywhere. If Rahul Gandhi wants to poison us, he can say so openly. Minions should not be unleashed to humiliate us.”
The dominant view among the senior leaders is that there is no problem in accepting Rahul’s leadership but there has to be a collective understanding on the future direction of the party.
They insist age cannot be the decisive factor in assigning responsibilities and assessing the worth of individuals, and the leader can’t afford to operate on the basis of bias and pique.
“Rahul’s choice of people continues to be problematic; he must have a strong political team,” another leader said, hoping the MP mends his ways in the larger interest of the party.
While many seniors question the competence of Rahul’s “advisers”, they contend that any suggestion given to him that the eviction of seasoned leaders was the only formula to resurrect the Congress would prove suicidal.
The battle is bound to intensify in the coming days and some of the young “advisers” are going to face the heat, no matter how passionately Rahul defends them.