New Delhi: Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam's controversial remarks about a generational clash has not got down well with several leaders who have frowned upon attempts to project Rahul Gandhi as a "group leader" within the party trying to promote the young at the cost of the old.
They maintain such a projection would harm the party which is seeking to rebuild itself after the worst electoral debacle in the Lok Sabha polls last year.
"Rahul Gandhi is not a group leader in the Congress. He is the leader of the entire Congress," party General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed told PTI, seeking to dismiss such attempts. "This is a perception created by the media", he said.
Ahmed said anyone who projects that the Congress Vice President is encouraging only the young should know that PCC Presidents of Gujarat (Bharatsinh Solanki) and Kerala (V M Sudheeran) appointed by him were over 60 years of age, while those in Maharashtra (Ashok Chavan) and Telangana (N Uttam Kumar Reddy) are approaching sixty.
Another party leader Manish Tewari too voiced displeasure over Nirupam's remarks that "new state presidents" were encountering resistance from the old guard which was sapping Congress' organizational strength.
While Nirupam did not say it directly, his reference was to the factional resistance to PCC heads in Madhya Pradesh (Arun Yadav), Rajasthan (Sachin Pilot), Haryana (Ashok Tanwar) and Punjab (Pratap Singh Bajwa).
"Leadership is a process of evolution. It cannot be thrust down people's throat. Respect in public life is commanded and not demanded," said Tewari.
Besides, he insisted, there is "no old guard, no new guard, no rear guard, no front guard" in the organisation. "Every leader has to make space for himself in politics and no one does it for him," he said.
"It is not the proper time to draw a line between senior Congressmen and young Turks when the need of the hour is for all to work together to fight the communal forces," said senior leader Rashid Alvi.
A party leader, who declined to be identified, took a dig at Nirupam for his Shiv Sena background, saying it was "amusing" that Congressmen have to learn about their culture from a former Shivsainik. Nirupam is a former Shivsena MP who had been a Congress member of the last Lok Sabha.