Reward Loyalists or Placate Rebels? With Fewer RS Seats to Dole Out, Gandhis Have Taken a Huge Risk

“So there is a loyalty test to the Gandhis and those who pass it, get it. Merit, political considerations don’t matter.” A senior Congress leader still waiting in the wings for the long promised Rajya Sabha seat had this to say.

For a party that can no longer guarantee wins under its name and where disgruntlement is greater than satisfaction, Rajya Sabha nomination is one way to ensure the flock remains together and one which kindles hope for the future.

There’s little the latest Rajya Sabha nominations offer by way of hope. The list, in fact, has given rise to massive resentment and one question – will it revive the G23 ‘movement’, which had seemingly gone into hibernation after many of their concerns had been accommodated?

Some like Nagma openly attacked the top leadership saying she had been promised a Rajya Sabha seat for long, but instead Imran Pratapgarhi was given the ticket from Maharashtra. The ticket to Pratapgarhi has in any case led to revolt from Maharashtra Congress leaders who question why an outsider was chosen for the state’s seat.

Handpicked by the Gandhis, Pratapgarhi is an aggressive politician fighting for Muslim identity and the Congress hopes this would strengthen their base among minorities, especially with the recent controversy over the Gyanvapi mosque. Even the normally restrained Pawan Khera couldn’t hold himself back from expressing disappointment.

Sources told News18 that many of the disappointed ticket aspirants are now looking elsewhere. Some are already in touch with the Aam Aadmi Party and the Trinamool Congress. And smaller parties looking for national presence, too, are mostly reciprocative.

The Group of 23 leaders had raised the point that the Congress had emerged as a cosy club where only a few get to find favour in posts and nominations. Some like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma have not been nominated. Many in G23 feel nothing has changed despite the assurances given at the Chintan Shivir. And no lessons learnt either.

There is a growing feeling that the Rajya Sabha list has made a mockery of the Udaipur resolution which spoke of reservation of 50% posts for leaders under 50 years. And now many more seem to be agreeing with the points raised earlier by G23 leaders.

Could this mean the revival of G23? It’s possible and by all accounts, things don’t look good for the Congress, especially in poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. If the party loses here, guns are bound to be out again and the G23 could find traction.

Even Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where the Congress is in power, have not seen tickets being given to those from the respective states. “We can’t use states as reserves to placate the high command’s wants,” said a leader from Rajasthan close to Ashok Gehlot.

It’s a dilemma for the top leadership. With fewer opportunities to dole out favours to the loyal, the top leadership has to seek a balancing act. Between placating those who are loyalists and those who need to be kept back, it’s not an easy choice.

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