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Sanjay Nirupam’s remark on generational clash riles many in Congress

New Delhi: Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam’s controversial remarks about a generational clash has not got down well with several leaders who have frowned upon attempts to project Rahul Gandhi as a “group leader” within the party trying to promote the young at the cost of the old.

They maintain such a projection would harm the party which is seeking to rebuild itself after the worst electoral debacle in the Lok Sabha polls last year. “Rahul Gandhi is not a group leader in the Congress. He is the leader of the entire Congress,” party General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed told PTI, seeking to dismiss such attempts. “This is a perception created by the media”, he said.

Read More: Sanjay Nirupam urges old guard of Congress to fall in line

Ahmed said anyone who projects that the Congress Vice President is encouraging only the young should know that PCC Presidents of Gujarat (Bharatsinh Solanki) and Kerala (V M Sudheeran) appointed by him were over 60 years of age, while those in Maharashtra (Ashok Chavan) and Telangana (N Uttam Kumar Reddy) are approaching sixty. Another party leader Manish Tewari too voiced displeasure over Nirupam’s remarks that “new state presidents” were encountering resistance from the old guard which was sapping Congress’ organisational strength.

While Nirupam did not say it directly, his reference was to the factional resistance to PCC heads in Madhya Pradesh (Arun Yadav), Rajasthan (Sachin Pilot), Haryana (Ashok Tanwar) and Punjab (Pratap Singh Bajwa).
“Leadership is a process of evolution. It cannot be thrust down people’s throat. Respect in public life is commanded and not demanded,” said Tewari. Besides, he insisted, there is “no old guard, no new guard, no rear guard, no front guard” in the organisation. “Every leader has to make space for himself in politics and no one does it for him,” he said.

“It is not the proper time to draw a line between senior Congressmen and young Turks when the need of the hour is for all to work together to fight the communal forces,” said senior leader Rashid Alvi. A party leader, who declined to be identified, took a dig at Nirupam for his Shiv Sena background, saying it was “amusing” that Congressmen have to learn about their culture from a former Shivsainik. Nirupam is a former Shivsena MP who had been a Congress member of the last Lok Sabha.

Shakeel Ahmed said a few months back he was faced with a piquant situation at a meeting of the Punjab Congress Committee attended among others by senior leaders as also DCC Presidents. Some of them who were over 60 years of age said they have the only option of committing suicide if the party has decided to promote just the young ignoring the lifelong services they have rendered to the organisation. Ahmed, who is in charge of the party affairs in the state, said he had to allay their concerns, insisting that Rahul Gandhi wants to promote young people but not at the cost of the senior and experienced leaders.

Another party leader said on condition of anonymity that there was a need for young leaders to keep a low profile as any attempt to project themselves as the “chosen ones to lead in future” would invite problem.
“Congress is not an NGO. People come here for public service but they also have ambition… The young should climb the ladder gradually. Take guidance of the seniors. Otherwise they will face problems. They can face a silent rebellion from within,” the senior leader said, noting those who work for the party want their rewards and attempts to sideline them would be counterproductive.

Party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala has already made it clear that Congress does not believe in sending its senior leaders on “compulsory leave” and putting them in ‘Margdarshak Mandal’, in an apparent dig at BJP. “The established leadership is creating hurdles in the working of new PCC presidents, an atmosphere of non-cooperation and opposition prevails in the organisation,” Nirupam had said in a recent interview.
Nirupam’s refrain was that the “established leadership must be ready to accept new PCC leaders” who have the “ultimate responsibility” to revive the Congress.