The Congress had been waiting for years for Rahul Gandhi to take over the presidency of the party. He did it finally in December last year. His early assertion on taking over the post that the party’s leadership should go to the youth may have inspired many, including the late Shantaram Naik who quit as Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief to make way for younger leaders. But the young guns of the party may not be happy with the constitution of the Congress Working Committee as many of the old Congress guard remain, though a few others, among them the former Goa desk in charge Digvijay Singh, have been dropped.
The new Congress Working Committee is a mix of the old and the young, though the expectation was that Rahul would weigh in heavily in favour of youth, especially since at the plenary session the dais had been kept empty and the new party president had said it was so as to make way for the younger generation to take over. But that didn’t happen, at least not in the formation of the CWC. Sixteen of the 22 CWC members are from the old guard and include Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh, Motilal Vora, A K Antony, Ahmed Patel and Ashok Gehlot. What he did though, was bring in many youngsters as permanent invitees, in fact they are in a majority here.
This is Rahul’s choice. The AICC plenary session in March, where he had at the concluding speech said he wanted to give the young a chance to come forward and lead the party, had authorised him to nominate all the CWC members, though the party constitution stipulates election of half its members. The old CWC constituted by Sonia Gandhi was dissolved late last year before the election of the new Congress president and it was converted into a steering committee until the plenary session. In effect the new working committee comes a good seven months after the old one was disbanded. And it brings few surprises.
A new leader has the prerogative to bringing in his own team. The 48-year-old party president has a new Congress Working Committee whose average age is 68 years – Motilal Vohra is 89, Tarun Gogoi is 83 – and it will be with this group leading from the front lines, that Congress will be facing the electorate a few months from now, an electorate that is largely young and looking for a changed India. This is the party’s highest decision-making body and what it foresees for the future will be revealed soon as its first meeting has been convened on Sunday, where State presidents and legislature party leaders have been invited.
It is pretty clear, however, that the old guard of the Congress is not ready to make way for the young turks. It is a somewhat similar situation in the party unit in Goa, whose seniors, sometimes even called the grandfathers, are unwilling to clear the space for the youngsters who are brimming with ambition and confidence to do something for the party and the State. What the party needs is revolutionised thinking to get them looked upon as a possible contender for power in the general elections that are expected in the early months of 2019. The test for the Congress before that are the elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, two State currently held by the BJP. The effectiveness of the CWC will be gauged by the results of these two polls.