Millennium Post

Passing on political baton

Is a generational shift taking place in various political parties? The 2014 election scenario shows that it has already begun. The year 2013 was very important in this regard for the two major political parties.  In January, Rahul Gandhi was made the vice president of the Congress Party in Jaipur AICC session. Nine months later the BJP announced Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

In most parties, the shift is combined with the dynastic nature – father or mother handing over the baton to the son or the daughter. The National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah was almost the first in recent times to hand over the baton to his son Omar Abdullah when the latter became the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mehbooba Mufti primarily runs the PDP founded by her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.  The Samajwadi party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav anointed his son Akhilesh Yadav as UP chief minister.

The DMK treasurer M K Stalin and PMK’s Anbumani Ramdoss have virtually taken over relegating their fathers to a mentor status. It was Anbumani who wrapped up an alliance with the BJP convincing his father that being part of the NDA made better sense. Similarly it was Stalin who insisted on not going for an alliance with the Congress. In Bihar, it was Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag who was responsible for the LJP aligning with the NDA. The RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is paving way for his children. In UP, The RLD president Ajit Singh’s son Jayant is influencing most decisions. The Shiv Sena is run by Uddhav and the splinter party MNS by his cousin Raj Thackeray. The list can go on.

There is nothing wrong in the generation next taking control, at a time when demographic changes are taking place in India. Some 1.8 lakh new voters will play a significant role in each of the 543 constituencies in the ensuing elections. Statistics suggests that the 16th Lok Sabha elections could be tilted by the preferences of these first time voters.

They symbolize the aspirational India.  This is one of the reasons for getting younger leaders to the fore when young are getting restless.

While the old guards may be generally bowing out some still have a hold in parties like the CPI-M and the CPI that draw more than a quarter of their leadership from this generation. It is also significantly represented in other parties such as the Congress, BJP, BSP and NCP.

The generational shift has its own problems. The saffron party is attempting the change in a big way with the full backing of the RSS. The signal is clear that old timers must go gracefully or else they will be pushed out. Modi is fighting for his space and seems to be in a hurry to assert himself. There is a feeling among the old guard that Modi is riding roughshod and building a personality cult around him. The slogan ‘har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi’ was an instance of such cult. Advani’s handpicked one time protégées expect their mentor to bow out gracefully but Advani does not think the time has come to quit. Modi has annoyed many senior leaders including Sushma Swaraj, Jaswant Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Murli Manohar Joshi, Lalji Tandon, and Kailashpathi Mishra.  The Modi camp argues that while the old guard is stuck in the old cultural nationalist message, it is Modi who attracts the youth.

The Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi too is facing problems in getting rid of the old guard.  Changing the team is in line with the Congress culture. Indira Gandhi got rid of the syndicate when she came to power. Rajiv Gandhi sidelined his mother’s close aides. Sonia Gandhi has handpicked her advisers.  Now it is the turn of Rahul Gandhi to choose his team. . For all purposes he has been taking almost all the decisions since he became the vice president.  Sonia has given him a free hand in this regard. It is his team, which is manning the party’s war room and chalking out the poll strategy. Rahul has put persons of his choice as chief ministers, PCC presidents or the CLP leaders or the general secretaries and secretaries. The party is projecting Rahul without naming him as the prime ministerial candidate and election advertisements are revolving around the young Gandhi.

The old guards in the congress are critical of Rahul for sidelining them. They despair that a new congress is emerging where they have no place. They are wary about the recent ticket distribution where local leaders in the states, who have been working for the Congress for more than 20 years, are denied tickets because they are considered too old.

Change is the only constant thing. Rahul, Modi, Stalin, Anbumani, Akhilesh and all the new leaders want to have their way in running their respective parties.  It is only fair that the old guards hand over the baton to the younger leadership gracefully.  But whenever it happens it is also accompanied by pain, frustration and heartburn. It is for the parties to make sure that it is least painful and the transition takes place smoothly.

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