Congress leaders interpreted the resignations of Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora from their respective party posts as an effort to put pressure on the older guard of the party to not just follow the example of outgoing party chief Rahul Gandhi and quit, but also make space for them as the chiefs of their respective state units.
Scindia, Deora, and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister (CM) Sachin Pilot are close to outgoing Congress president Rahul and party general secretary (in-charge of Uttar Pradesh) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Scindia, who quit as party general secretary in charge of UP, is keen that he leads the party in Madhya Pradesh, where the Kamal Nath-led Congress currently has a government with a wafer-thin majority.
Deora, who quit as the Mumbai unit chief, hopes to head the Maharashtra state unit. The state is due for Assembly polls in October. Ashok Chavan quit as the party chief after Congress’ abysmal performance in the state and the party has not filled the vacancy yet.
Pilot has not reacted publicly but hopes to be the CM of Rajasthan. As the state unit chief in the past five years, Pilot rebuilt the party in Rajasthan but Ashok Gehlot beat him to the post of the chief minister when the party won in the Assembly polls in the state in December.
Pilot’s supporters hope senior leaders would see reason in transferring Gehlot to the centre as party chief, while the younger leader takes over as Rajasthan CM. The front-runner to the post of Congress chief is Mallikarjun Kharge.
Sources in the party rejected speculation that the three could become vice-presidents under Kharge. They said all of them are 40- to 50-year-old, and it would make sense for them to focus on states where the Congress has shown the BJP it can be defeated rather than shift to the centre to take on Narendra Modi.
The resignations are an extension of the fight between Rahul and the older guard. In his letter earlier this week, Rahul accused the older guard of clinging to power. He had expected Congress Working Committee members and state unit chiefs to quit in the wake of the Lok Sabha defeat and his resignation.
“Accepting the people’s verdict and taking accountability, I had submitted my resignation as general secretary of AICC (All India Congress Committee) to Shri Rahul Gandhi,” Scindia tweeted. “I thank him for entrusting me with this responsibility and for giving me the opportunity to serve our party,” the former Lok Sabha MP said. He said he had resigned over a week back.
Rahul had appointed Scindia and Priyanka as general secretary in-charge of UP before the Lok Sabha polls. Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha seat, was the only one of the 80-seats of the state the party could win and Rahul lost his Amethi seat. Scindia lost his Lok Sabha seat of Guna in Madhya Pradesh.
Scindia’s resignation indicates that he wants to focus on his home state of Madhya Pradesh, while Priyanka, seen as Rahul’s successor, would prepare for the 2022 UP Assembly polls.
As for Deora, his rival, Sanjay Nirupam in the Maharashtra Congress doubted the intent of his resignation. In a tweet, Nirupam said a spirit of renunciation is inherent to a resignation, but here the aspiration is to get a ‘national level’ post. “Is it a resignation or a ladder to climb up,” Nirupam, who did not refer to Deora by name, said.
He criticised Deora’s proposal to appoint a three-member committee to run the party in Mumbai during the upcoming Assembly polls. A similar struggle is on in the party in Karnataka between former chief minister Siddaramaiah and party leader D K Shivakumar.