Rahul Gandhi.. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, July 16 : "A leader is a person who identifies talent and gives people an opportunity to become a mass leader," recalled Congress Spokesperson Ragini Nayak quoting party former Chief Rahul Gandhi from a workshop session after his entrance into politics. She was refuting the claims that young turks were not being given importance and not being promoted in the party.

The remarks came amid the second high profile rebellion in the Congress by senior party leader Sachin Pilot last week against the party's leader Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan.

Following the rebellion by Pilot, many opposition leaders joined the bandwagon to slam the former Congress chief questioning his leadership and accusing him of sidelining the Gen Next leaders in the grand old party.

Speaking to IANS, Nayak, who contested the 2013 Delhi assembly polls unsuccessfully said, "When Rahul Gandhi joined the party he became the in-charge of the frontal organisations. At that time I was the national General Secretary of NSUI. During a workshop he asked the NSUI activists who is a leader, to which many said that a leader is a person who has followers, while someone said that a leader is one who does something new. To this Rahul Gandhi said all this is right, but essentially a leader is a person who gives opportunities to others to become a mass leader," she said.

The Congress leader said that he came into politics with a vision to identify and promote the capabilities of young leaders. "The entire allegation that he did not allowed the young leaders to grow in the party is completely baseless," Nayak said.

Pointing at the Cabinet of the Congress-led UPA government she said, "In the UPA Cabinet, Rahul Gandhi did not take any post, while Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasad, Milind Deora all were there. If he was against promoting the young turks, then he should not have allowed any one of them to be a Minister in the UPA government," she said, adding that she was also given a chance twice to contest the DUSU elections despite the fact that she lost her first election.

Nayak said that after that she was made the chairperson and President of the NSUI, and then the General Secretary of the NSUI. Similarly, she was made a party spokesperson and also made the Foreign Department convenor of the party and was also given the ticket to contest the assembly elections at the age of 30 in 2013. "I was also made star campaigner for the Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh assembly elections," she said.

Similarly, three-time Congress MP Manickam Tagore, who is also the party's chief whip in the Lok Sabha, told IANS, "I was a General Secretary in Tamil Nadu when Rahul Gandhi was the in-charge for NSUI in 2007. And we were working in the Youth Congress when in 2009 he gave me an opportunity to fight the Lok Sabha elections." Tagore said that there was no recommendation needed for getting the Lok Sabha ticket and it was the work that spoke. "For Rahul Gandhi, whose son you are does not matter. What matters is the hard work for the party," he said.

In a message to the rebels in the party, Tagore said, "Congress ideology and commitment is important for the party rather than personal ambitions." "We are all examples as we were not promoted. Go anywhere whether in Parliament or Assembly, or at state or district level, you will find people promoted by him," he said.

Tagore said that those who are ambitious, they are attached to the positions and going away from the ideology of the party. Pilot had revolted against Gehlot on Saturday after which he was sacked from the post of Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Congress chief. In March this year Scindia joined the BJP that led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh.

Indian Youth Congress Vice President for Mumbai, Suraj Thakur said, "I come from a middle class family. No one in my family was attached to politics. But I was made the NSUI State President by Rahul Gandhi in 2010-12 and 2012-15." Recalling the incidents from Rahul Gandhi's visit to Mumbai in 2016 during his padyatra from Bandra to Dharavi, Thakur said, "When I thanked him for holding the padyatra, he hugged me at the airport and made me sit by his side in the VIP lounge at the airport where all the senior leaders of the party were sitting." Rahul Gandhi used to take the review meeting of the NSUI every three months and he used to call the NSUI Presidents by their name to explain the work of the party, Thakur added.

Thakur said the former Congress chief never bothered about the background of the leaders in the party and helped them whenever in need. "It was his vision that Congress is still holding the elections in the Youth Congress and the NSUI to elect its leaders," he added.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

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