One feels for Sachin Pilot. He has committed a cardinal sin in the court of High Priest – Sonia Gandhi. It’s a double sin. He is holding Rahul Gandhi accountable to his word and he wants credit for the work done. Plus there is another problem. He is young and looks like a worthy individual; with an imaginative mind. Who also believes in hard work. Add to this the fact that his father, Rajesh Pilot, who died in a helicopter accident under suspect conditions, is still missed in Rajasthan. In short, he has what Rahul Gandhi has – Legacy and age on his side! And also what Rahul lacks – Merit! Just like his father he is a contender for the throne in the Congress party. He is a threat to the Gandhi Dynasty.
And Sachin Pilot is not alone. There are many. Rita Bahuguna-Joshi, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Jagan Mohan Reddy, Mamata Banerjee, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot…the list just doesn’t seem to end. Add Milind Deora, Jitin Prasada and Sanjay Nirupam if you want. What do they have in common? All these leaders are competent, tenacious individuals who more or less fit the Sachin Pilot template. No wonder, either they are out of Congress or are nearly ostracized in the party.
There’s another list. Known as the old guard in Congress. Ashok Gehlot, Tarun Gogoi, Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath, P Chidambaram. They withstood the mediocrity and coexisted with the dynasty. Not because they lacked the talent or popularity to reach to the top. But they knew where to stop. They knew their limitations (Aukat – औकात an apt word actually). Heart of Hearts they knew the control lies with the dynasty. They never dared to challenge any dynasty member. So much so that even when the Gandhis lost their ability to win elections, they did not revolt. They remained faithful. For which eventually leaders like Kamalnath and Gehlot were rewarded with Chief Ministership when Congress won in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2018.
Another example is Digvijay Singh, who lost power to BJP’s social engineering and Hindutva putsch. But when Kamal Nath came back, his son Jaivardhan Singh was made Urban Development minister. That’s how loyalty is rewarded. That’s how the party functions. The party top brass and a large section of functionaries believe that, sooner than later, people will vote Congress back into power. If anyone from the young Turks thinks the party can accommodate their aspirations, they are mistaken. They can take a walk!
There’s another bunch of leaders. Manmohan Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge and Adhir Ranjan Choudhary. They are a unique lot. In the sense, they have been given top positions of power. Manmohan Singh obviously was Prime Minister for a decade. Kharge was Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha from 2014 to 2019. And Adhir Ranjan leads the party in Lok Sabha currently. Why? Because they neither were nor will be in a position to challenge Rahul (or Priyanka in future) for the top post in the party. They are as servile to the family as Old Guards. No better example than Manmohan Singh himself. He when graced the most powerful office in the country, that of Prime Minister allowed his self-respect to be trampled over by Rahul. Who had no moral authority, knowledge or experience to challenge to Dr Singh. These three have another set of ‘competencies’. They either are not electable or do not belong to Hindi heartland or both. Also, they are well past their prime. Chances that anyone of them would have or will challenge a nominee from the family are almost negligible.
Last but not the least, list. Five people on it – YS Rajashekhar Reddy, Madhavrao Scindia, Rajesh Pilot, P V Narsimha Rao & Sitaram Kesri! All of them supposedly did not carry the ‘qualities’ which say Gehlot or Manmohan Singh has.
Take a look at the most capable and illustrious Narsimha Rao, who went on to become Prime Minister. Before moving to Delhi politics, he was CM of Andhra Pradesh for 2 years. Then, starting 1977 till 1998, he won six Parliamentary elections in a row. A feat which even Indira Gandhi or Atal Bihari Vajpayee could not achieve. After Rajiv Gandhi’s death, he took over as Congress President and PM in 1991. Immediately, he put India on the road to economic growth by initiating tough reforms in 1991. Which pulled tens of millions of people out of poverty and made India one of the fastest-growing economy in decades to come. He also brought India’s Nuclear program back on rails. But could not explode the bomb in 1995 as American’s got the hint. Eventually, it was BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee which completed the Nuclear tests in 1998. Without any doubt, he was one of the tallest Congress leaders and a trailblazer PM. So how did dynasty treat this distinguished Telugu Bidda?
With contempt and vengeance! Once out of power in 1996, there were a host of cases filed against him. And he was left to fend for himself. Things got worse after Sonia Gandhi took over as party President in 1998. Despite being a former AICC president and a PM, Rao was not just excluded from the Congress Working Committee, he was not even allowed to become one of the numerous ‘special invitees’. And it did not stop at this. Dynasty was so full of hatred for Narsimha Rao, that he was humiliated even in his death. His body was not allowed to enter the AICC building. Competency and merit obviously do not guarantee respect in Congress.
Sitaram Kesri, a Dalit, who replaced Rao a party president, was another leader who was not from the family. And he did resist Sonia’s ascension, for which he paid a price. In a brutally swift operation, in 1998 he was locked in a toilet in Congress headquarters while Sonia entered the office and took over.
That leaves us with three leaders, Reddy, Pilot and Scindia, who all, unbelievably died in accidents. And if this is not spine chilling enough, sons (Jagan, Jyotiraditya and Sachin) of those very leaders have revolted and left the party. Sachin technically is still in the party but almost on his way out. And it will interesting to watch how the Pilot vs Gehlot drama plays out. But the die is cast.
Will end with a Digvijay Singh story which, will perfectly explain the motive behind Gandhis’ love for the old guard. On the campaign trail in UP, when quizzed by a journalist, that if Congress makes a comeback who deserves the credit. He replied “If we win it will be to the credit of Mr Gandhi. But if we do not perform well, it’s the Karyakartas like me, who should take the blame.” Golden words! Clearly Sachin Pilot does not agree! He’s not able to forget his Baba (father) and he is determined that Gehlot and his master residing 10 Jan Path also remembers him.