- Congress struggling with leadership vacuum at top
- Jyotiraditya Scindia joined BJP on Wednesday
- Mr Scindia facing unsparing criticism from party veterans
The country's grand old party, the Congress, already struggling with a leadership vacuum at the top, dwindling presence across the country and a crisis for its government in Madhya Pradesh, is likely to have another battle on its hands soon. The simmering resentment between the party's old guard and the new has surfaced with a vengeance after the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of its most prominent young leaders.
Sidelined by the party for more than a year, Mr Scindia joined the BJP on Wednesday. A contender for the Chief Minister's post in Madhya Pradesh, he was passed over for that as well as the top post in the party state unit. In the recent weeks, the party did not give a positive response to his wish for a sure-shot Rajya Sabha seat, triggering his exit. In his resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, Mr Scindia had made his discontent clear, saying "This is a path that has been drawing itself out over the last year".
It is in the responses to Mr Scindia's exit that the gap between the young brigade and the veterans became glaring. While most of the old guard - including Digvijaya Singh, Ashok Gehlot and Adhir Choudhury -- had ripped into Mr Scindia, accusing him of betrayal and worse, young leaders of the party responded with sympathy and were sharp in their criticism of the party.
The party's most-watched young leader now, Sachin Pilot, was the last to respond. While the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan did not explicitly criticise the party or Mr Scindia, his tweet on Wednesday evening made his stand clear.
"Unfortunate to see @JM_Scindia parting ways with @INCIndia. I wish things could have been resolved collaboratively within the party," read the post of Sachin Pilot, who, like Mr Scindia, had lost the race for the top post in Rajasthan. With relation between him and his boss, Ashok Gehlot, bordering on frosty, there is speculation on whether Mr Pilot would follow the same route as Mr Scindia.
Haryana's young leader Kuldeep Bishnoi, too, expressed concern at Mr Scindia's exit, saying the "party and the leadership should've done more to convince him to stay. Like him, there are many other devoted INC leaders across the country who feel alienated, wasted and discontented," he tweeted.
Veteran Congress leader and party spokesperson PL Punia has sided with the young leaders calling Mr Scindia's exit "unfortunate". "It needs a thorough introspection whether Mr Scindia alone is responsible," his tweet read.
Most of the party veterans, however, have been unsparing in their criticism of Mr Scindia.
Mr Pilot's boss, Ashok Gehlot, who ripped into Mr Scindia yesterday accusing him of betraying the "ideology" and the "trust of the people", posted another set of tweets today.
One of the posts, which did not name Jyotiraditya Scindia, read: "The sooner opportunists leave, the better. Congress party gave so much, held various posts for 17-18 years, was made an MP, a Union Minister. Despite all this, what came out was just an opportunist, public would never forgive."
Digvijaya Singh, who along with Kamal Nath, has been accused of failing to give space to Mr Scindia, had let loose a mass of jibes for the 49-year-old former MP from Guna. Wishing him "well under ModiShah Tutelage", he also said Mr Scindia "should replace Amit Shah or Nirmala Seetharaman".
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury claimed "political convenience" and "personal ambition" played a major part in Mr Scindia's decision.
Senior leader Partap Singh Bajwa, who held the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat, NDTV said ideology was the "biggest casualty" in Mr Scindia's exit. Calling Mr Scindia's exit "a great loss for the Congress", he said, "I am not very sure what happened to him (Jyotiraditya Scindia)… People don't stand on ideologies anymore... neither parties nor leaders".
Another Congress leader - Assam Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi, who is also the son of former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi - told NDTV he was "disappointed" with Mr Scindia's decision. "If he thinks he is going to get more respect in BJP, then he is mistake. He won't get 10 per cent of what Congress gives," Gaurav Gogoi said.