Although, various pre-poll surveys suggest the Karnataka Assembly election to be a cakewalk for the Congress, differences within the party following the allotment of tickets for the 5 May polls might dent its chances. A majority of candidates fielded by the party are old-timers with very few young candidates finding a place in the list. With the average age of the chosen candidates remaining at 50 years, youngsters in the party are piqued over the list.
Following Rahul Gandhi’s elevation to the post of the party vice-president, the Congress had announced that about 40 percent of the seats would be kept for young leaders. Surprisingly, after the Congress made grand announcements of shifting its priorities towards the youth at its Chintan Shivir at Jaipur in January, the party is back to its old stand of fielding known faces.
Interestingly, there was a sizeable chunk of youth leaders present from Karnataka at the Chintan Shivir. Their morale was at its peak as they could sniff a chance to contest the Assembly election. The candidates list has dashed their hopes.
The youth wing had forwarded a list of 20 names but could manage only a few tickets. Even state Youth Congress president Rizwan Arshad was denied a ticket, prompting him to resign from the post. Arshad had sought a seat from Narasimharaja in Mysore, represented by MLA Tanveer Sait. He emailed his resignation to party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi after his request was turned down.
However, the party was quick to respond to the objections of the youth brigade. A whisper campaign was started in Karnataka regarding the distribution of tickets. It was explained to the youth cadres that the screening committee for Karnataka includes Jitendra Singh, who is also the secretary of the frontal youth organisations of the Congress, such as the Youth Congress. It was also emphasised that the ability to win and the clout of seasoned leaders in their respective constituencies could not be ruled out.
The retort to this was that if seniors continue to dominate, what will happen to the young leaders who nurse a legitimate ambition of getting into the electoral process? Before the issue could go out of hand, it was brought to a close by arguing that the party has an election to win and that bickering can happen later. For now, an uneasy calm prevails between the young and the old in the Karnataka Congress.