Methods in strategy: BJP ‘retired’ most veterans, Cong still reposes faith in elders

New Delhi, Mar 27 :  In the list of elders – those virtually given voluntary or forced retirement by BJP include L K Advani, M M Joshi, Shanta Kumar, B C Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Kalraj Mishra and Karia Munda. From the younger lot – Sushma Swaraj (67) and Uma Bharati (59) opted out of electoral race.
Before you gasp for air – how and why these went on – the Congress list of candidates still has the names of Digvijaya Singh (72) and Salman Khurshid (66).
In the case of Digvijaya Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s decision is puzzling as Bhopal – a known saffron party bastion for decades – will be a tough seat to win. Notwithstanding the bravado, Mr Singh made a reluctant entry.
Talk to BJP leaders on the subject of ‘forced retirement’ of old warhorses – most speak vaguely.
Instead, one leader tried to show the ‘virtues’ of the decision to field 28-year-old L S Tejaswi Surya from Bangalore South denying the ticket to Late Ananth Kumar’s wife Tejaswani Ananth Kumar.
Has BJP adopted pragmatism to sentimentality? In that case – what is Mr Gandhi – 20 years younger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi – trying to do by fielding veterans like Digvijaya Singh?
Apparently, Mr Modi is personally not very comfortable in dealing with old timers – who were once his ‘bosses’ and gurus.
This is not the case with Rahul Gandhi — as most Congress veterans automatically bow down before the ‘dynasty’, as a BJP insider puts it.
Of course, the Congress has younger leaders in the form of Hardik Patel – who formally joined the party.
In fact, when it came to making choice of Chief Ministers too – Mr Gandhi had opted for 72-year-old Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh and Ashok Gehlot (67) in Rajasthan. The claims from much younger Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot were brushed aside or kept in back burner.
In Goa – a scene in contrast – the BJP insisted that the man to succeed Manohor Parrikar will be 48-year-old Pramod Sawant. Earlier, it gave relatively young Chief Ministers in Tripura and Maharashtra and even NPP leader Conrad Sangma in Meghalaya is only 41 and certainly represents the ‘new generation’ politics in northeast.
In terms of BJP’s ‘shift’ towards Generation Next – it all actually started way back in 2013 under Rajnath Singh as party president himself – and the move had clear blessings of the RSS leadership.
According to a BJP leader in Uttar Pradesh – now standing sidelined – the underlining theme that guided the saffron party in 2013 appointment of office bearers, the 2014 distribution of tickets and also ministry formation (under Prime Minister Modi) and now again the allotment of tickets in 2019 – is – ‘kisi ek neta ki nahi chali’
“The single biggest takeaway is that no individual leader is important,” he said adding not even patriarch L K Advani or the Late Ananth Kumar vis-a-vis the emotive issue of ‘sympathy’ ticket for his wife.
Endorsing him a Maharashtra BJP leader says – “The new team and ticket distribution reflects practical politics at places like in the case of Maneka-Varun Gandhi duo and it only reflects the generation next”.
In the case of Varun Gandhi – he is just 39 and thus ‘despite dynasty’ that’s a merit, a source said.
A leader went further – saying in 2024, it will be likes of Pramad Sawant and Devendra Fadnavis – both 48 or even the 28-year-old L S Tejaswi Surya – who will run the BJP.
In Uttar Pradesh – despite all criticism – incumbent Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is not only a ‘younger’ face – the 1972 born Yogi he is precisely two years younger to Rahul Gandhi.
A Sangh parivar functionary and close observer of things – says “Rajnath Singh started it in 2013 itself and this has been carried forward. Without showing disrespect, I must say we have been able to do away with dead wood”.
In contrast, let us examine the cases pertaining to Congress veterans.

Besides Digvijaya Singh and Salman Khurshid, Congress leaders contesting elections this year will be Mallikarjun Kharge (76) and Nirmal Khatri (68).
Shatrughan Sinha, actor-turned-BJP rebel, who is all set to join Congress is 72-year-old.
Of course, 73-year-old P Chidambaram has left Sivaganga seat to his son Karti. Interestingly, in terms of showing faith on younger lots – in January this year – Congress president Rahul Gandhi brought in Jyotiraditya Scindia and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as two in-charges in UP – replacing 70-year-old Ghulam Nabi Azad.
In Uttarakhand 71-year-old Harish Rawat is Congress nominee from Nainital while in Nagaland, Congress candidate is another former Chief Minister K L Chishi (75).
In the running of the party, of course Mr Gandhi has to bank on his mother Sonia Gandhi (72) also contesting from Rae Bareli and A K Antony (78).

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