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    Rajasthan imbroglio: Hard lessons for GenX politicians

    Rajasthan imbroglio: Hard lessons for GenX politicians

    Rajasthan imbroglio: Hard lessons for GenX politicians
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    By Rakesh Khar   IST (Published)

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    It is tempting to see the Rajasthan political imbroglio from the generational conflict prism.

    That several younger generation leaders have spoken for him should indeed gladden Sachin Pilot. It is tempting to see the Rajasthan political imbroglio from the generational conflict prism. This narrative takes the battle right into the high command where the first family of Congress is itself caught in the midst of a generational shift, if not a crisis.
    A closer look, however, would show that the wave of sympathy for Pilot comes primarily from Congress leaders who are themselves a product of legacy. Shashi Tharoor, who has mastered the art of diplomacy, has been an exception. But his words are guarded and his emotion laced with ifs and buts.
    There is nothing wrong with the bonhomie on display among the larger pool of second-generation leaders for Pilot. There, indeed would be an unstated outpouring of love for Pilot among all younger politicians cutting across party lines.
    Accordingly, there is a natural urge to cast the Pilot as a victim? But is that good enough to get Pilot what he supposedly deserves?
    Not really, for politics is a ruthless game, where victimhood can create tons of sympathy but not necessarily assure support on the floor of the House or outside?
    Let us step back and see what loosely binds these bunch of young politicians in India? To begin with, it is their stated vision for a new progressive and positive India. They are indeed academically bright, articulate and seemingly keen to make a profound statement as also an enduring impact on the national polity. They have shown they have the will to dirty their hands and do a deep dive when it comes to playing the age-old game of realpolitik.
    Obviously, that isn't enough. India urgently needs a fresh wave of politicians in all parties. It would be ideal if the crop didn't have a lineage as their strongest virtue. But to damn dynasty isn't virtuous either. It is about scouting for fresh talent, without a place of origin.
    The issue here isn't to pitch young versus the old. The old have their say and have demonstrated that experience stood them good ground. For sure, India needs a fair blend of experience and youth as it takes on myriad challenges at hand.
    The whole proposition is to draw the young back to the drawing table and reassess the strategy. Here are a few pointers that might merit consideration.
    1. Perception management is a tool and not the winner strategy. We are all for articulate well-meaning leaders. Social media leadership does not always translate into leadership on the ground. Take for instance the Pilot episode, the urban middle class would side with him but the grass root messaging, where social media does not reach, would position Pilot as being unduly ambitious. With no benchmarks on defining ambition in politics, the onus rightly or wrongly is on Pilot to tell the voter that he is a victim and not the villain. That is easier said than done!
    2. The politics in India has got itself comfortably into a template. We are back to the two-party syndrome. We can have a quarrel with it but must manage a way out of it. It isn't easy for any aspiring politician to seek refuge in either of the two contrasting pillars. Pilot might have stated that he would not join BJP but then his ardent supporters might want him to do so. Politics is all about an investment where returns have moved away from the mere satisfaction of rendering service to achieving hardcore monetary gains. Is he answerable to his milling followers? Whatever he does in the end, he has to be unambiguous and there is no infinite time available to state who you are and who do you stand for? Pilot deserves a chance but he must make an informed choice and endure it even if it means being in it for the long haul.
    3. There is a huge talk of federal India and the need for strong regional leaders. India needs strong regional leaders. But Pilot is essentially a Hindi Speaking Market (HSM) phenomenon and regional traditionally owes its origin to a language. This limits his moves and holds the lesson for many HSM young politicians. The HSM market is a tough one for politics for it is riddled with caste and communal complexities that make navigation even more difficult. It also runs uncomfortably into the National firmament.
    4. The likes of Scindia and Pilot may contest the charge that they are not mass leaders. Pilot did bring back Congress from the brink in Rajasthan. But the charge sticks. Gehlot himself is no mass leader but somehow there is a tendency to label younger generation politicians across parties as being elitist and not deeply connected to the masses. This is again a perception challenge that has to be battled while upping the grass-root connect universally. Many young politicians nurse constituencies which are more urban than rural. The big political story is unfolding in tier 2 and 3 towns where there is an unsatiated appetite for growth.
    5. But constituency isn't the only playground for these young meritorious politicos. They have to be seen to be taking stand on issues that have mass appeal. Pilot or Scindia, both, when inside, cultivated a well-crafted impression that not only all is well but that on issues the party and the individual are one. Both lost no opportunity to be seen close to the high command manifest in Rahul Gandhi. A principled stand, when inside, on issues that determine and define the party trajectory would help build that credibility. In the latest episode too, the criticism that the opposition by Pilot is only for the post and not the party, therefore, gets currency. A little more spine is imperative for politicians of all hues whether in power or opposition.
    6. Lastly, given that the younger generation, politicians are gifted and enjoy huge following on social media. They need to make a nuanced statement about their brand of politics, often moving away from established and well-stated positions. Only if these views are powered by conviction. Young India, rightly or wrongly, takes social media seriously and younger generation politicians would do well to build a genuine profile there to not only help enlarge their catchment area but also to help separate wheat from the chaff.
    7. —Rakesh Khar is senior editor, Special Projects, Network 18. He writes at the intersection of politics and economy.
      Read Rakesh Khar's columns here.
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