Young Turks shine as electorate rejects the old guard

Virendra Pandit Rutam Vora Gandhinagar | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on December 18, 2017

Congress President Rahul Gandhi (right) with the party candidate Alpesh Thakor in Gandhinagar (file photo)   -  PTI

With a new crop of young leaders, Cong is expected to provide an effective Oppn

The three young Turks — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani — virtually co-opted by the Congress in the Gujarat election, are among a new crop of young leaders who represent the changing face of the Grand Old Party. Thakor won as Congress candidate and Mevani with Congress support, Patel almost supported the Congress.

With the victory of 77 Congress candidates as against 99 of the BJP, for the first time in 22 years, the Congress is expected to provide an effective Opposition in Gujarat.

Change of guards

It may also be the beginning of a generational change in India’s oldest party, not only at the top, but also in the States where the 132-year-old GOP has been out of power for years. One main reason for this decline has been its dysfunctional and gerontocratic leadership.

In Gujarat, this Congress leadership hardly had foot soldiers due to their 22-year-long absence from power. For all practical purposes, the State Congress party organisation would show some unity and action only at the time of an election or visit of a central leader. Even senior leaders usually avoided going to the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) headquarters, which often wore a deserted look.

In the current election, while Gujarat Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki did not contest the polls, the ‘old guards’ — Arjun Modhwadia, Siddharth Patel, Shaktisinh Gohil, Tushar Choudhary — all lost the polls. It remains to be seen if the the leadership replaces them with a younger generation.

The Congress, which has arrested its decline in Gujarat, has seen the rise of youth power at a time when its State leadership was in the ruins. The GOP is likely to emulate this new ‘Gujarat model’, in which promising non-Congress youngsters could be co-opted and brought into leadership positions to replace the ‘old guard’.

That Rahul Gandhi took the Gujarat elections seriously and pitted his party in a real contest for the first time since 1995 was unmistakable. He spent 23 days and addressed over 65 rallies/meetings across the State.

These moves gave him an image makeover from being a reluctant politician to a result-oriented leader.

The youth power has proved its mettle in both the parties in this election. While the BJP fielded their young faces for crucial regions in the Patidar hot-bed of Surat and North Gujarat, the Congress too experimented with new faces.

From Vadgam, Congress-supported Dalit youth Mevani won with an impressive margin of over 20,000 margins, while Thakor, who joined Congress two months ago, and three of his supporters won comfortably. One of his supporters, Geniben Thakor won from Vav in Banaskantha district, trouncing a powerful minister, Shankar Chaudhary, by over 6,000 votes.

In Saurashtra, young Congress leader Vimal Chudasama defeated heavyweight Jasha Barad in Somnath constituency. Emerging Congress leader Paresh Dhanani, tipped to be the new Leader of the Opposition, won in Amreli.

Among the BJP’s young winners were Majura sitting MLA Harsh Sanghavi, first-time candidate from Choryasi, Zankhana Patel, and Arvind Raiyani from Rajkot-East.

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Published on December 18, 2017
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