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Above: Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay (representative)

It’s the classic photo-op—the team huddle before play begins, where the captain explains strategy and highlights chinks in the opposition’s armour. The huddle is now visible in politics, as the Congress party looks to extricate itself from the muddle caused by its captain’s sudden resignation. Following his official resignation letter, the party has been left rudderless as he commands it to look for a non-Gandhi as the next President. Party insiders and outsiders got into a huddle to look for an acceptable replacement. Here’s how it went.

By Dilip Bobb

Ahmed Patel: I have spoken to Soniaji and she says Rahul’s decision is final and we have to look for a non-Gandhi to lead us.

Anand Sharma: That’s pretty much what Jawaharlal Nehru told his senior colleagues, of course the context was different and so was the Gandhi he referred to.

Ghulam Nabi Azad: We have got so used to being led by one family that it’s almost impossible to think of life after so many decades of Gandhigiri. However, I agree with Rahulji’s views when he says we have to find young leaders and fresh blood to rejuvenate the party. Any names come to mind?

AK Antony: Mallikarjun Kharge.

Shashi Tharoor: But he’s 76 years old, are we looking at age before beautitude? That’s hardly in keeping with Rahul’s call for a younger leadership.

Ashok Gehlot: We are definitely not looking for those who use big words to impress audiences. Kharge has the experience and the intelligence.

Navjot Singh Sidhu: Experience is like a comb that life gives you when you are bald.

Tharoor: Reminds me of an old saying, Intelligence is like underwear. It is important that you have it, but not necessary that you show it off. Let’s face it, the party faces an existential crisis. Five decades ago, as India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, began visibly ailing, the nation and the world were consumed by the question: “After Nehru, who?” The inexpressible fear lay in the subtext to the question: “After Nehru, what?”

Mukul Wasnik: We have no dearth of young leaders. The problem is finding somebody who can lead them.

Jyotiraditya Scindia: Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Rahulji’s instructions in his letter were to inject inner dynamism into the system, people who are not afraid to embrace change.

Kharge: Like who?

Scindia: Well, there’s Navjot Singh Sidhu…

Kharge: Who embraced the Pakistan army chief. Are you seriously considering someone like that?

Amarinder Singh: Over my dead body.

Anand Sharma: Look, let’s be honest, my suggestion is that we find an acceptable face as President merely as a token gesture. As an expert on South Africa, I am reminded of a quote by Nelson Mandela, he said: Lead from the back, and let others believe they are in front. I am hoping that is what Rahulji has in mind.

Sachin Pilot: Everywhere I go in Rajasthan, I am greeted by chants of “Sachin, Sachin,” just like we used to hear in cricket stadiums. It’s time for a change of guard.

Ashok Gehlot: Are you comparing yourself to the Master Blaster?

Pilot: No, but I am reminded of a saying that Rahulji often used to quote when we were together. He attributed it to Groucho Marx, and it said: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

Gehlot: Marxism is dead, we need to look ahead and come up with viable solutions.

Azad: Do you have any?

Gehlot: I will let you know after I next meet Soniaji.

Tharoor: The direction was crystal clear: We have to look beyond the family and take on the BJP in a battle for the soul of India. We need to keep reminding ourselves that it’s not the side of the bigger army that wins, it’s the party that tells a better story.

Sharma: It’s not enough to have the gift of the gab, we need to go back to our roots.

Tharoor: And what does that imply?

Sharma: The family. Indira Gandhi took the Congress back to power when it looked like all was lost, Rajiv gave us computers and Sam Pitroda, Sanjay gave us the cutting edge….

Azad: And Rahul has left us in the wilderness. He has asked us to pick a dynamic leader who can inspire a Congress revival. Any names come to mind?

AK Antony: Malikarjun Kharge.

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