Young faces to replace old guards
SPECIAL REPORT BY KUSHAL JEENA / NEW DELHI
A major organizational shake-up is likely to take place in the Congress party as Rahul Gandhi steps into the shoes of her mother Sonia Gandhi with old guards being asked to pave the way for young generation at the echelon of power within the party.
There are indications that senior party general secretary and a time-tested man of organization matter Ghulam Nabi Azad might replace Ahmed Patel in a new avatar, which is not yet clear. The new Congress President is also undecided whether nor not to continue with the having the office of his political secretary as its role has never been specified.
At least two to three new leaders mostly young are expected take charge as new vice-presidents who will directly report to the Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
The senior most among them would be entrusted with the responsibility of party’s organizational matters at all level and the other one would specifically deal with the issue of expanding and setting up new party organization where currently either the party doesn’t have a formal structure or a weak one.
The absence of party’s organizational structure in many states played a vital role in the recent defeat of the party at the state and district level elections. According to a senior party leader who has been associated with the organization admitted the lapse on this front and said Rahul himself noticed this shortcoming.
The first and major challenge for Rahul Gandhi was to deal with the senior leaders who have been blocking the way of young people into the party leadership. At many occasions Rahul had hinted that he wanted entire party with new and fresh blood to match his rivals. However, his mother has been insisting on maintaining a balance with old guards at policy and planning level and youngsters at implementation level.
The changes are likely at general secretary and state party president levels and it will happen right through May 2018. Work has already started and the Congress is foraying into new directions with the likes of some new fr0nta organization to deal with issues confronting young generation.
Sam Pitroda, who worked closely with former PM Rajiv Gandhi and has been roped in for the Gujarat election as well, will be part of Team RG besides K. Raju, chairman of the SC department at AICC. There is also speculation about a possible elevation of Professor Mohan Gopal of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies.
With Randeep Surjewala in the saddle in the communications department and Deepender Singh Hooda firmly by the side as well, Team RG is expected to have roles ready for the younger brigade comprising leaders Rajasthan Congress President Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora of Maharashtra and Jyotiraditya Scindia from Madhya Pradesh will likely work under senior leaders such as Motilal Vohra ,Gulam Nabi Azad
Ashok Tanwar, Bhanwar Jitendar Singh and Sushmita Dev from the Mahila Congress are among those who are likely to find bigger roles after RG takes charge. Rahul Gandhi already signalled his intentions by appointing veterans such as Sushil Kumar Shinde in Himachal Pradesh, K.C. Venugopal in Karnataka and Ashok Gehlot in Gujarat.
Given the kind of respect she commands in the party, Sonia Gandhi is bound to be in an advisory role but just how she will relate to the party structure and a freshly reconstituted Congress Working Committee, is unclear yet.
The four-time MP’s role outside 24, Akbar Road will also be something to watch out for. Another question is: where exactly will Sonia Gandhi sit in Parliament when Rahul moves into her shoes? Until now, she has been sitting in the first row of the opposition bench in the Lok Sabha.
Decentralisation will be key to Rahul’s strategy. For instance, the state election screening committees earlier would suggest up to three candidates to the central election committee for ticket distribution ahead of elections. It is no longer the case. Now, the screening committee is to suggest one name alone, taking away the latitude and power that New Delhi enjoyed over them. The new candidate, in RG’s scheme of things, should have worked on ground, demonstrated professional integrity and must be fully committed to the Congress ideology.
Also, debatable though the move may be, Rahul may allow some flexibility – sometimes even at the expense of the party’s electoral prospects for activists working towards larger goals similar to the Congress’ principles. For instance, a sitting Congress MLA from Vadgam in North Gujarat vacated his seat for Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani and the Congress decided not to field a candidate against him as he is now seen as the Dalit face in Gujarat.