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With Sachin Pilot's Removal, Debate on 'Young Turks vs Old Guards' in Congress Party Ignites Again

Jyotiraditya Scindia (left) and Sachin Pilot.

Jyotiraditya Scindia (left) and Sachin Pilot.

The former Rajasthan deputy chief minister's refusal to yield to the party high command's overtures is already being linked to his proximity to Jyotiraditya Scindia, who earlier revolted and left the Congress in March.

The sacking of Sachin Pilot from the Congress and his imminent exit have once again ignited the debate of young turks vs old guards and spawned fears of a fresh wave of defections from the party.

The former Rajasthan deputy chief minister's refusal to yield to the party high command's overtures is already being linked to his proximity to Jyotiraditya Scindia, who earlier revolted and left the Congress in March.

Reacting to the sacking of Pilot from the post of Rajasthan deputy chief minister and president of the state party unit, his former colleague and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Scindia said he had already warned that the Congress has no place for capability.

Pilot is expected to address a press briefing on Wednesday, where he will likely lay out his plans for the future.

The BJP has also called a meeting of its MLAs in Jaipur at 11 am on Wednesday, which will also be attended by former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

A senior Congress leader said the party cannot afford to lose its 'GenNext' to the BJP after having given eminence to its 'young turks' for so long. The worry now is whether Pilot's exit could trigger a fresh wave of defections of its younger generation.

"Pilot's departure could similarly embolden some other leaders who are feeling anxious in the party and are unable to manage redressal of their grievances. There is a lot of concern around Rahul Gandhi's close circles and how it controls access to him," said a Congress leader.

Some of the promising leaders who left the Congress include Scindia, former Jharkhand unit chief Ajoy Kumar, former Tripura chief Pradyot Deb Barman, former Uttar Pradesh head Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Assam leaders Himanta Biswa Sarma and Bhubneswar Kalita and Amethi royal Sanjay Sinh. Most of them have complained against the senior party leadership alleging non-resolution of their grievances for a long time.

All eyes are now on Pilot's next moves who is expected to make a statement on his political future on Wednesday.

The cryptic tweet he posted after his sacking on Tuesday triggered speculation about what the future might hold for the young leader who became an MP at the age of 26 in 2003.

"Truth can be rattled, not defeated," Pilot tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

He again tweeted in the evening, thanking "all those who came out in my support".

Former Union minister and Pilot's "colleague and friend" Jitin Prasada said no one can take away the fact that Pilot has long worked with dedication for the Congress. Considered a prominent leader of the party's 'young brigade', Prasada expressed hope that the situation can be salvaged.

"Sachin Pilot is not just a colleague but my friend. No one can take away the fact that all these years he has worked with dedication for the party," Prasada tweeted.

Shashi Tharoor asserted that Pilot should have joined the effort to make the party a more effective instrument for "his and our dreams".

"I consider him one of our best and brightest, and wish it had not come to this. Instead of parting, he should have joined the effort to make the Party a better & more effective instrument for his, and our, dreams. If he returns to the fold and works for a revived and reformed Congress, he would be more than welcome," the MP from Thiruvananthapuram said.

Sources said the Congress is now thinking about ways to disqualify Pilot and his rebel colleagues after divesting him and two of his trusted aides of their ministerial and organisational responsibilities.

The Rajastan government led by Ashok Gehlot is said to have the support of around 105 MLAs, a claim rejected by the Pilot camp saying Congress is in minority as over 30 MLAs are with the ousted deputy chief minister.

Several Congressmen, however, termed Pilot's sacking as "unfortunate and sad, saying the development did not not bode well" for the grand old party which is struggling to retain promising leaders amid an "old versus young" battle.

Former union minister M Veerappa Moily said Pilot was made deputy chief minister and also had the reins of the party in Rajasthan in his hands and the next step was the post of chief minister and he should have waited for his time. He said Pilot should not have rushed through and got entrapped in BJP's gameplan and allurements.

(With inputs from PTI)