Team Rahul Gandhi’s future uncertain as new winds blow in Congress

Inducted into key roles with much fanfare and hope, top members of team Rahul Gandhi face an uncertain future as the party deals with the aftermath of its dismal performance in the Lok Sabha election and resignations pour in.

Gandhi recently quit as the Congress president, taking responsibility for the drubbing, and many of his closest aides followed him.

His confidants Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora are the latest to have resigned from their party posts. The two put in their papers on July 7 as AICC general secretary and Mumbai Regional Congress president respectively.

On July 6, Keshav Chand Yadav resigned as Indian Youth Congress chief, while AICC Scheduled Caste Cell chairman Nitin Raut had quit earlier.

Other Gandhi aides who resigned in solidarity with their leader include former Congress chief’s protégés such as Uttam Reddy, who quit as working president of Telangana Congress, and Girish Chodankar, who gave up the position of Goa Congress president.

Most of the resignations the Congress is witnessing are from the members of team Rahul Gandhi, be it AICC secretaries or a range of state chiefs he positioned in different regions. Among them is Rajesh Lilothia, who was only recently appointed Delhi Congress Working President under state unit chief Sheila Dikshit.

Within the party, there are already talks that the future of Gandhi’s associates and team members are uncertain as he made a sudden and unplanned exit.

Many leaders who appealed to Gandhi to stay argued that their political futures depended on his presence in the party and hence he must stay.

“Many of us joined the Congress in key roles to take Rahul Gandhi’s vision forward. Now that he has quit, we feel quite rudderless. Let us see how things shape up,” said a young Congress leader who recently quit.

With Gandhi marching on, it remains to be seen how his top aides like Scindia, Deora, Raut, Yadav, Lilothia, Reddy and Chodankar, among several others, will be placed in the new dispensation that comes in once a new Congress president is elected.

Another reason why team Gandhi is keeping its fingers crossed is because of the evident return of the old guard at the helm of affairs in the Congress.

A series of meetings held to discuss the way forward after Gandhi’s resignation have involved only Congress veterans such as Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Motilal Vora, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, with the younger lot, seen closer to Rahul Gandhi, not part of preliminary discussions.

Further, with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi saying that they would not be part of the process to select the next Congress president, his aides are clearly feeling the pinch as the decision making rests exclusively with the all-powerful veterans.

Even the Congress Working Committee, which will have the final say in the matter, principally has the seniors in it.

So far, there is no clarity on who the next party chief would be.

Although Punjab Chief Minister and party veteran Amarinder Singh Saturday batted for a young person as Gandhi’s successor, it remains to be seen if his idea resonates in the grand old party.

While the confusion continues, there are some members of Team Rahul who refuse to give up their positions.

Among top Gandhi aides who have not resigned is Haryana Congress Chief Ashok Tanwar. Tanwar continues to stick to his post even as the camp loyal to former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda is openly seeking his ouster.

A veteran Congress leader, however, noted, “Resignations or no resignation do not matter. Once the CWC accepts Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as Congress president, the entire AICC would have to be reconstituted as the new president will appoint a new team.”

Meanwhile, the Congress is yet to finalise the schedule for all important CWC meeting which will declare a way forward for the crisis-ridden party. Until then, more resignations are likely to happen.