In the last one decade, whenever there has been a fight between the old guards and young guns of the Congress party, the old guards have emerged victorious, thanks to the ineffective leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Whatever may be the fault of the Gandhis, at least they have emerged victorious against the old guards and revived the Congress party time and again. But today, the old guards of the party defeat Rahul Gandhi every time he tries to put the young leaders at the forefront of the leadership.
After the dissent of G-23, most of whom are the old guards of the party, Rahul Gandhi is once again forced to accommodate them and Congress is probably expected to nominate Ghulam Nabi Azad to Rajya Sabha to pacify the situation. As per a report by The Sunday Guardian, Congress might hold internal elections for the party posts, which was one of the major demands of the G-23 group. Even Kapil Sibal, one of the G-23 leaders, expressed displeasure with the existing system of Congress and sought organisational elections. And, the party is expected to go for the polls after the 2022 UP elections. However, it would be a challenge for Congress to send out a message that everything is alright within its party ranks.
So, the most important demands of the dissenting group have been accommodated and the old guards seem to have emerged victorious against Rahul Gandhi once again.
India has one of the youngest demographics in the world, with the average age below 30, which means the majority of India’s population is younger than 30 years, while a majority of the 55 members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision-making body of the party, are pre-Sonia Gandhi era veterans.
Harish Rawat, Oommen Chandy, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Manmohan Singh, AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ashok Gehlot, Anand Sharma, and Siddaramaiah were prominent Congress faces from their respective states before Sonia Gandhi became the party president in 1998.
Out of 55, 20 CWC members are above 75 years, with eldest member Motilal Vora in the early 90s before his recent death. The only CWC members who qualify as ‘youth leaders (that too only in Indian media and politics) are Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and a few other special invitee members. The majority of the members and permanent invitees of the CWC are above 70 years of age.
Congress carries the baggage of being the ‘Grand Old Party’ of India and ever since Sonia took over, the old guards have prevailed over the young guns whenever there has been a tussle between the two. And this became the reason behind the loss of government in Madhya Pradesh, probably in Rajasthan, and the defection of some of the most important leaders including Jyotiraditya Scindia and Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Congress won the MP assembly election in 2018, riding on the exceptional performance in the Gwalior Chambal region, the family bastion of Scindia. BJP won 107 seats in the 230 member assembly against 114 seats of the Congress party, which made the government in alliance with BSP, SP, and the independents. BJP won a higher popular vote percentage with 41 against 40.9 of the Congress party.
The party lost power due to poor performance in northern Madhya Pradesh or the Gwalior Chambal region, where the party won only 7 seats out of 34 against 20 in the last election.
However, despite the fact that Congress won due to Scindia’s leadership and his aggressive campaign in the Gwalior region, he was not made Chief Minister of the state. Instead, the party chose Kamal Nath, a 74-year-old leader who was born in Kanpur.
Rajasthan, where the party won in the 2018 assembly election, mirrors the politics of MP. There too, Congress won under the leadership of 43-year-old Sachin Pilot, who campaigned aggressively and is very popular among the constituents. However, the party high command made 70-year-old Ashok Gehlot, an old-time family loyalist, Chief Minister of the state.
Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, is 79 years old, and the party high command led by Sonia Gandhi has no intention to retire. So, probably he will even be the CM face in the next assembly election of Punjab.
While on one hand, BJP gives retirement to leaders above 70 years of age, on the other, in Congress, a person is considered eligible for some serious responsibility only after 60 years of age. Its chief ministers in the three most politically important states of the country are above 60 along with the majority of its state and district presidents and probably, so are its voters. And as long as the old guards of Congress keep winning, there is no scope for the revival of the party.