(L-R) Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia
New Delhi: The view that a young leader should succeed Rahul Gandhi as Congress president is fast gaining traction with the party's youth cadre batting for a Gen Next chief over the old guard.
The young brigade's preference for youth over experience got a boost when Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday asserted that a young person should be chosen as Gandhi's successor.
Though no Congress leader or worker has publicly put forward any name, party insiders said Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia could be front-runners for the top job in the Grand Old Party.
Pilot, 41, led the party to victory in the assembly polls as the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress chief and has a lot of grassroots organisation experience. Scindia, 48, is also seen as a dynamic leader with mass appeal though he could not win his seat in Madhya Pradesh in the Lok Sabha election.
The focus swivelled to the young brigade on Sunday when Scindia made public his resignation as general secretary in-charge western Uttar Pradesh and Milind Deora announced he has quit as Mumbai Congress chief. On Saturday, Keshav Chand Yadav resigned as Youth Congress president.
All three resigned citing accountability, Gandhi's focus after the Lok Sabha polls debacle.
The Congress got only one seat in Uttar Pradesh, that of Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli, and lost all the five of the six seats in Mumbai it contested.
Announcing his resignation as Mumbai Congress president, 42-year-old Deora said he was looking forward to playing a role at the national level to help stabilise the party.
The resignations citing accountability have put party veterans in a spot with pressure mounting on them to follow suit.
Some Youth Congress leaders met Rahul Gandhi last week and told him a young leader who has connect with the youth is the need of the hour and should be handed the reins of the party, sources said.
"Whoever becomes Congress president has to be someone whom people can identify with across the country. People should be able to identify and also look for their long term future with that president," a senior leader said on condition of anonymity.
"Someone who is well-known, articulate and has charisma -- that is the kind of person people expect the Congress to hand over the reins to," he added.
A large section of the party comprising young leaders feels the party needs to connect with the youth and a young leader at the helm is a must as an old guard leader may fail to attract millennials and Gen Next.
"Rahul Gandhi has always encouraged and worked for building a strong second line leadership of young leaders. I completely agree with his vision. Young leaders at all levels of the party, including at the top, must be encouraged," Congress leader Rajesh Lilothia told PTI.
Lilothia also tendered his resignation as working president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee along with scores of office-bearers after Rahul Gandhi quit as chief.
Asked about the situation arising out of Gandhi's resignation, Jitin Prasada, former Union minister and party's young face from Uttar Pradesh, told PTI, "We urge Mr. Gandhi to reconsider his resignation. However, in the letter (Gandhi put out on Wednesday) he talked about the challenges ahead of the party which must be discussed threadbare and acted upon."
Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mallikarjun Kharge, Motilal Vora and Ashok Gehlot are among the 'old guard probables' for the position of party president. However, there is no official confirmation on it.
On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Singh said a young leader with a forward-looking approach would "galvanise" the rank and file of the party after Gandhi's "unfortunate" resignation.
He urged the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to look for Gandhi's replacement in a charismatic Gen Next leader, who can "enthuse" people with his "pan-India appeal and grassroots presence".
"Rahul had shown the way for the youth leadership to take the party's reins and steer it to greater heights," he said, adding that with India leading the world in terms of the largest youth population, it was natural that a young leader would understand and relate to the desires and aspirations of the people more effectively.
"Any change in the party leadership must reflect India's societal reality, with 65 per cent of its population under 35," Singh said.
Gandhi last Wednesday publicly announced his resignation as its president, taking responsibility for the Lok Sabha polls debacle, and called for "hard decisions" to rebuild the party and making people accountable for the "failure" of 2019.
The 49-year-old leader --who has been adamant on his decision to quit as party president since May 25, two days after the results in which his party won 52 seats -- also stressed on the need for the Congress to "radically transform itself".
He succeeded his mother Sonia Gandhi as Congress president in December 2017 and his major success at the helm of the 133-year-old party was winning the three state elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in December last year.
The Congress is yet to finalise the schedule for the all important CWC meeting which will declare a way forward for the crisis-ridden party. Until then, more resignations are likely to happen.