The Congress leadership is attempting a balancing act in trying to promote younger leadership in States while reaching out to the old guard.
In the past few days, while the party was firefighting a very public leadership tussle in Punjab, The Hindu has learnt Congress president Sonia Gandhi reached out to senior members of the group of 23 dissenters (G-23) — who had written to her about revamping the party last year — as well as other veterans.
These leaders include Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kamal Nath, Anand Sharma and Digvijaya Singh, a source said on Wednesday.
There's no official word on the agenda of these meetings but the Congress chief is said to have discussed organisational matters and the political situation.
While most of these meetings took place away from the media glare, her meeting with former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister triggered speculation that Mr. Nath could be given a big responsibility at the All India Congress Committee as and when a reshuffle takes place.
Mr. Nath, however, denied these reports and said he wasn't in any hurry to leave Madhya Pradesh, where he heads the party.
The timing of Ms. Gandhi's political meetings with the senior leaders, however, is significant: it comes at a time when the party seems to be experimenting with State-level leadership.
While the Congress is yet to resolve the differences between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former PCC chief Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, the appointment of Navjot Singh Sidhu as the Punjab Congress Committee (PCC) chief despite stiff opposition from Chief Minister Capt (Retd.) Amarinder Singh has created an impression that the Gandhi siblings — Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — are now ready to fully back the younger leaders and ease out seniors.
Against such a backdrop, the Congress chief's meeting with veterans could help bridge the divide. But it's also clear that Mr. Sidhu's elevation seems to be part of a larger Congress design to promote younger leadership in the States, even if some of them may have joined the party recently.
Like Mr. Sidhu, Lok Sabha member Revanth Reddy joined the Congress in October 2017. But the former two-term Telugu Desam Party MLA was recently appointed as the Telangana Congress chief.
In Gujarat, where Assembly polls are scheduled towards the end of 2022, youth leader Hardik Patel, who had come from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), was made a working president of the PCC last year.
"It's not about disrespecting seniors but building a leadership that can lead the party for the next 10-15 years. That's why we need younger leaders in the States," reasoned a senior leader.
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