Despite stating that he wants to remain with the Congress, Sachin Pilot has drastically endangered his ties with the party. After Jyotoraditya Scindia’s exit, this has come as a morale dampener for the party, especially the second generation; one of whom rather evocatively stated: The party has lost its Karan-Arjun. On ground, one can argue that neither was a mass leader like an Ashok Gehlot or a Bhupinder Hooda. But the perception was such that the two did outshine most other dynasts who make up the rank (if not the file) of the party.
One can debate whether Sachin was goaded by Gehlot, or did he opportunistically make his way out of the party. The Congress claims it has taped conversations between Camp Sachin and a BJP Union minister. But that is not all. We are also hearing whispers of a conversation between Sachin himself and a BJP general secretary who is close to Amit Shah. So clearly the last word on this is yet to be said (and heard). We are also told that both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have now indicated that it is time to let Sachin go and no further attempts should be made to woo him back. At the same time, party spokespersons have also been told not to attack Sachin directly. However, this is one memo that I don’t think has reached Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan CM and veteran Congressman.
The Congress leadership clearly feels it has regained some of the ground it lost in Madhya Pradesh. Briefings about entitled young leaders have begun to do the rounds. Examples of UP PCC Chief Ajay Lallu who has been jailed twice since lockdown are narrated as the kind of leadership the Congress wants to encourage, as opposed to an Ivy League-educated dynast. Or as Gehlot said, good-looking people who speak good English! All that is very well until you look at the party’s leader in waiting himself and you wonder if Gelot is talking about Rahul as well. Compare the two (as some editorials have done) and see if you can spot one difference between Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot that doesn’t work out in the latter’s favour?
Except of course that Rahul cannot be accused of doing business with the BJP. But a case can be made against him for not providing adequate leadership against the BJP. Or even adequate leadership within the organisation. And therein lies the problem which allows a Scindia to get away, and a Sachin to rebel.
There are two kinds of leaders. One is someone who leads from the front, but for this he needs on-ground experience. Unlike Sachin who has been both in government and on the ground as PCC chief, Rahul has no such experience. Second is the leader’s ability to choose the right team that can be his frontline warriors. Rahul, unfortunately, has not been able to put a team together. His mother could, as could his grandmother and also his father and uncle. If you look at what we refer to as the Old Guard today, these are all leaders who have been brought in by Rajiv or Sanjay Gandhi — from Digvijaya Singh, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Capt Amarinder Singh, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kamal Nath and Gehlot himself. Barring Patel who has his own unique way of wielding power, the rest are all former or current CMs.
Now take a look at the Rahul brigade, or even those who debuted along with him in and around the Class of 2004: Sachin is on a rebellion, Scindia (two years senior) has left. Others such as Jitin Prasad, Milind Deora, Sandeep Dikshit, Navin Jindal, Madhu Yaskhi are all nowhere to be seen either in the organisation or in the Lok Sabha.
This tells its own story. It’s a given that Rahul will be leading the Congress whatever nomenclature he chooses for himself. So the focus should now shift from Rahul himself to the kind of team he puts together. Maybe therein the congress will find some answers.