The remarks of party general secretary (Organisation) Janardan Dwivedi favouring that leaders beyond 70 years keep off from active posts in the party are being seen as indication of things to come.
"The writing on the wall is clear. After such a debacle, a party can come back only after fighting on the street for which youngsters are needed. It is the young, which has to fight the electoral battle," another senior party functionary speaking at the condition of anonymity said.
Even on the organisation front, the party leader, who has a long experience of working in the government as well in the organisation, recalled that most of the AICC secretaries appointed by Rahul Gandhi last year are below 45 years.
When told that there could be leaders, who are above 65 or 70 years but could have the mental ability and physical strength to perform, the leader said that if a bar has to be set, it has be based on the "chronicle age" and not "mental age" on which opinions would be subjective.
"The sooner it is understood, it is better. The elders should make way for the young leaders. You have to pay attention to the age factor in electoral politics. I am of the opinion that the age consideration should be there," he said but caveated his response by saying these are his "personal views".
The remarks are significant as a number of senior AICC functionaries have either crossed 70 years or approaching it. Party Treasurer Motilal Vora is 85, Ambika Sonia 71, Madhusudan Mistry 69, Digvijay Singh 67, Ghulam Nabi Azad 65, C P Joshi 64 and Mohan Prakash 64. Besides, A K Antony is 73 years old, P Chidambaram is 68 and Sheila Dikshit is 76.
Dwivedi had, however, maintained that there are some posts, which could be exception to the age bar. "Sheila Dikshit represents both culture and temperament of Delhi," a leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said.
It may be recalled that when Joshi was the PCC chief of Rajasthan, he had put a bar of 70 years on those contesting elections. Speaking at the 2010 Burari session of Congress, Digvijay Singh and P Chidambaram had recalled how late Rajiv Gandhi had brought young people and it was time for Rahul Gandhi to bring his new team.
Meanwhile, the AICC leader has denied suggestions that Congress was contemplating generational change in the organisation after BJP has done it saying it was going on for a long time in the party.
"Rahul Gandhi had visualised it long time back. That is why you saw his pitch for bringing youngsters in the forefront," he said, adding Congress is a mass-based party and it, unlike, a cadre-based party like BJP and Left cannot afford to ignore age.
He cited the example of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had lost Lok Sabha polls from South Delhi in 1999 but L K Advani won from Gandhingar.
"There has to be a generation change in electoral politics. We have to keep in mind that L K Advani could not steer BJP to victory, which Narendra Modi did. His politics of confronting the Congress directly worked."
The leader also noted out that there are 15 crore young voters in the country and now leaders, who are only technologically sound and prompt in response can have a role in active politics.
He said that there are a number of states, where the party could not revive including in Tamil Nadu, where it has to start from scratch as it has not won the state since 1967. "Similarly in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, we need young party leaders, who can fight. There is no other option."
Citing examples of various other fields where elders hand over the responsibility to a young team, Dwivedi said "similarly generational change is also necessary in politics. After certain age, people should not live on active posts in a political organisation".
The remarks have come at a time when there is intense speculation about imminent changes in the AICC setup with the younger generation likely to call the shots and leaders of Dwivedi's generation may be replaced.